It’s autumn in the U.S. and that means American football is front and center as the most watched sport of the season! Whether you are rooting for your college favorite or for that big pro team that hopes to make the Super Bowl, it’s all a thrill from the first cheers to the final touchdown.
But why limit a good thing to just the roar inside the stadium? Those in the know extend the fun by starting their pre-game celebrations at tailgating parties. Once simple affairs based on just having food available, today’s tailgating parties involve tents, tradition and terrific food.
But let’s start at the beginning. First off, despite what some Internet sites list as ‘history’, tailgating did NOT start at the First Battle of Bull Run (or the First Battle of Manassa to use the southern name for the Civil War’s first major battle).
Tailgating is about the game of football, not armies, guns and death. Indeed, the first intercollegiate football game (Rutgers vrs Princeton) wasn’t even played until 1869 – four years after the Civil War ended.
And then due to the lingering feelings of loss and rage, the northern and southern universities delayed playing football against each other another decade.
Due to the distance of the playing field from the University, fans knew they would arrive at the field tired and hungry. Thinking ahead, they brought food and drink and, as a result, a new culinary tradition was born.
The actual term “tailgating” is credited by historians to the innovative fans of the Green Bay Packers. Back in 1919 when the team first took the field, there was no stadium and no seating for the fans. But what fan wants to stand for a whole game - Ouch!!!
The fans resolved the problem by simply backing up their pickup trucks and dropping the tailgates down. And in an instant, a new American word was created: tailgating.
Today tailgating parties are an American sports tradition on campuses and at pro stadiums around the country. Some parties are rustic with spicy chili and grilled cheeseburgers. Others are quite elegant with signature cocktails and miniature quiches. But all feature great food, often cooked on the legendary Big Green Egg.
First seen in Japan by U.S. servicemen after World War II, this grill was unique and very different from the more traditional metal “cut barrel” barbecues used back home. And so were the cooking results: simply amazing flavors.
Oval in shape and containing a unique ceramic interior, it produces gourmet cuisine that easily surpasses the standard overcooked and often dried out backyard fare often served stateside.
By 1974 an preceptive business man, Ed Fisher, rediscovered the Big Green Egg. He knew a winner when he saw it. The result was the creation of a family owned company that would change tailgating (and outdoor cooking in America) forever: The Big Green Egg Company!
Word quickly began to spread about Fisher’s remarkable green grill, that was also a smoker and an oven as well as a traditional barbecue! The meats (and pies and vegetables and game and pizza and more) that were coming off the Big Green Egg were attracting attention at tailgating party after tailgate party across the country. Soon everybody wanted an Green Egg. They even coined a word for it: “Egg-citing!”
But Fisher didn’t stop there. He has constantly worked to improve the design and tailor the Green Egg to modern needs. Today the exterior (still green, of course) is glazed with the same tile finish that is used on the Challenger's heat controlling external space tiles.
Now there is an outstanding cookbook also available called, of course, The Big Green Egg Cookbook, that lists one remarkable recipe after another for such treats as Eggplant Fries, Jalapeno Ham Steaks, Glazed Lobster Salad, Creamed Corn and French Toast with Pears and Cherries as well as Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie and Kahlua Coffee Brownies! Not your usual barbecue grill fare. But oh so good!
But what's best of all is that, though tailgating has moved from vintage wicker baskets and aging farm trucks to space age grills that encompass designs from half a world away, what's most important has always remained the same.
It doesn’t really matter where we live or what team we cheer for. What’s most important to remember is that it’s fellowship that matters, not the numbers on the board. What's how we can really score every time!
Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2010