Tailgating at home
You heard it here first. I am a big fan of college football.
I grew up watching NFL football on Sundays and Monday nights with my dad. Our home team was the Cleveland Browns. (I can feel your pity from here.) I remember Brian Sipe, Ozzie Newsome, Clay Matthews, and Bernie Kosar. I remember a lot of yelling at the TV.
No one in my family had gone to college. When I went to college at Ohio University, in sleepy southeast Ohio, Saturdays meant sleeping in, doing homework, and ordering pizza.
Years later, I moved to Ann Arbor, MI. When my Ohio friends heard this, they were aghast. “Traitor!” “You’re moving to enemy territory?!”
I had no clue what they were talking about.
Then I saw Ann Arbor on a Saturday in September. Home of the University of Michigan, the Big House, it was a spectacle unlike anything I’d ever seen. The streets were filled with people of all ages. Maize and blue colors everywhere. Parked cars and red solo cups within two miles of the stadium.
This happened every Saturday? In college towns all over the country?
When I met G, he was halfway through his MBA studies at the U. of Michigan. The next thing I knew, I was his tailgating plus one. We’d meet his fellow students at a designated spot near the stadium for pre-game revelry. People had grills and coolers and fold-up tables filled with snacks. We’d eat and drink and talk trash about the day’s opponent and then walk over for the game.
I had so much fun. I’d never been a fan of a team that actually won games. I learned the Michigan fight song. I wore Michigan garb. G and I even got to take my dad to a game once before he got sick.
My favorite tailgate memory was an early game time. Tailgate breakfast! Bacon and sausage on the grill. Doughnuts. Bloody Marys.
Now my Michigan friends were saying, “Wait, you’re from Ohio?" “Traitor!”
When we bought our house and G finished his degree, we didn’t have cable yet. I remember those first days in the house, painting rooms and listening to the MI game on the radio.
Once we settled in, fall Saturdays became football central at our home. Friends knew they could stop by and there would be food and drink and football on the TV.
No matter where we’ve lived, we still tailgate at home on Saturdays in the fall. We may not have the change of the seasons anymore, but we still welcome September, autumn, and the arrival of college football.
In late August, I start to brainstorm menus for the upcoming Saturday games. Looking at recipes, planning, making lists...this is also a favorite pastime, like cheering for my team.
Big wins on Football Saturday include: pots of chili, stew, or Italian drip beef; sheet pans of nachos; seasoned pretzels and popcorn; a quesadilla bar; fried chicken sliders; and crocks of queso.
This past Saturday morning was the opening game of the season. I woke up, turned College GameDay on the TV, and headed to the kitchen. Apron on, iced coffee in my hand, I sliced up pork shoulder and rubbed it with spices for a quick trip in the Instant Pot. I shucked corn for a quick boil later at halftime. I made a dish of macaroni and cheese the night before for easy reheat. Other than toasting some sandwich buns in the oven and dressing the boiled corn, my work was done!
I baked chocolate chip cookies the day before for Saturday’s sweet treat. If I bake ahead of time like that, I have to hide the evidence. If G sees the cookies on Friday, there won’t be any cookies on Saturday.
Our team won its first game and the football feast was a hit! Time to coach up next week’s menu. I think there’s a request for chicken wings…
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Thanks again for reading! I care about you. Please don’t forget to eat your greens.
***Written to The Killers’ Day and Age.