At our house, September is the favorite time of year. We look forward to the beginning of football season with as much anticipation as some do with Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a BIG deal in our house. And evidently we are not alone. Literally millions of people attend college and professional football games.
I love being a sports fan. Have you noticed there is something magical about the emotional connection we feel with a total stranger - even when they live in another part of the country - when they are wearing the same team jersey we have on? Have you felt it? Have you ever made eye contact with a passerby wearing your team's logo and got an instant response to your subtle chant, "Go, Pack, Go!" or (insert your own team's chant here!)? Instant friendship! We know nothing about each other, but then again, that one shared experience is all we really need to know.
And the experience grows exponentially when you pull together a crowd of passionate football fans. That same emotional connection, amplified by adrenaline, is ... well, all I can say is ... awesome!
Maybe that is why tailgating started. Congregating with a large number of people that share the same passion feels exhilarating. And, in a curious way, it fulfills that deep-seated need to belong. We are family. Then, after a while, we get hungry.
Sharing a meal or "breaking bread together" is also a shared experience that fosters that feeling of belonging. No wonder many sources estimate that tailgating is a multi-billion dollar industry. According to a 2015 survey conducted by Tailgating.com, the typical tailgater is a college-educated male between the ages of 35 and 44 who spends over $500 a year on tailgating food. The typical tailgater attends and/or hosts 6-10 tailgating parties each season and starts partying 3-4 hours before kickoff.
It has been estimated that tailgaters drink an average of 2+ alcoholic beverages per person. It is a good thing they are eating something!
No one is quite sure how tailgating started, but several organizations claim the rights to its origination. You may have heard one such story that a tailgate party occurred during the first college football game between Rutgers and Princeton on November 6, 1869.
Any Green Bay Packers fan will tell you that the Green Bay Packers fans coined the actual term "tailgating" during the team's first year in business in 1919. I will admit that they are the most die-hard NFL fans imaginable, so I think they deserve the credit.
The annual college football match-up between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators is renowned for being the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." The football game is usually held on the last Saturday of October right here in my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. The stadium holds about 84,000 people, but over 150,000 people show up to party outside the stadium. That is a lot of cocktails!
With tailgating, it is all about the food (and beverages!) and most people grill, smoke or cook their food at the stadium 2-3 hours before the game. Tailgating hacks can make your cooking experience a lot more enjoyable and it also helps to use recipes that can be partially assembled beforehand. One of my favorites is this honey-glazed chicken thighs recipe. The marinade for this recipe can be prepared ahead, poured over the chicken in a gallon freezer bag, massaged until thoroughly coated and frozen a day ahead of time. It will be easy to transport in a cooler and throw on the grill after it thaws. Here is a tip: For your next tailgating party, type the keyword game day into Tastefully Simple's key word recipe search to pull up tons of recipes, from grilled entrees to appetizers. Check out the Touchdown Party Kit for other great game day recipes.
One of the things I like best about Tastefully Simple's recipes are that they are very simple to prepare and always a crowd pleaser. That is a perfect combination for tailgating!
Whether you are grilling at the game or sitting in front of your television, there are dozens of delicious recipes on tastefullysimple.com that are sure to be the highlight of your next party.