Football & Tailgating: The greatest pairing since ribs & smoke
By Doug Mosley
There’s all kinds of wispy writings about the virtue of fall. Authors go on and on waxing eloquently about the end of summer, the colors of autumn, the harvest time, etc., etc. But you and I know that fall means football and that means tailgating! Why football and tailgating is the greatest pairing since ribs and smoke and anyone who reads this publication has certainly been the star of a tailgate lot or two (or three or four or many more). I think tailgating is really just the weekend hobby for a competition ‘cuer anyway.
Books on tailgating generally hit the shelves in the late summer, and I apologize that I’d not told you about thisone sooner. It is entirely my fault, I’d not discovered it in time to even get it into last month’s edition of NBN, so I hope you’ll forgive me that it’s almost mid-season by the time you’ll be hearing about this from me, but it is such a good book that I still wanted to bring it to your attention. And after all, you’ll be about a month-and-a-half into football season when you see this, so you may be looking for a resource for fresh ideas. In that case, The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football & the South, by Taylor Mathis ($30, The University of North Carolina Press, 240 pp.) will be just what you’ll be needing.
Many of you may already be familiar with Mathis from his well-known food blog, taylortakesataste.com. His day job is being a photographer, but on the side he spent two-and-a-half football seasons researching this book. Mathis went to many games, 35 in all, across 12 states. He did the obligatory tour of the SEC, hitting such places as Alabama, South Carolina, Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, Texas A&M (yep, the Aggies are no longer in the Big XII). He took in some ACC schools as well – Clemson and the conference championship game in Charlotte were among his stops. And he also visited some of the places that don’t get as much recognition, like Appalachian State, East Carolina and Alabama A&M. These were just the ones that I noted from the pictures in his book; I’m sure there were many more. There’s no doubt that Mathis truly earned his chops for this book by doing the hard work of visiting college football tailgates and looking for something to eat (a tough job, no doubt).
The recipes he collected along the way is impressive and he offers up 110 of them in chapters titled Drinks, Breakfast, Appetizers & Snacks, Sides, Main Meals, Sandwiches & Soups and Desserts. Not every recipe is accompanied by a picture, but there are 75 full-color photos throughout the pages that set the tone as well as give you a look at some of the finished dishes. He covers the basics – Smoked Pork Shoulder, Smoked Beer-Can Chicken, Tailgating Beans, Brunswick Stew, Tailgate Burger Bar, Red Beans and Rice and a couple of different chilis, just to name a few. But the real strength of this book is what he includes beyond those, creative selections like Chicken-Sweet Potato Kebabs, Grilled Oysters, Fried Frog Legs, Crab Cake Sliders, Grown-Up Grilled Cheese with Cognac Mustard Butter, Cinnamon Toast Breakfast Cake with Icing Drizzle, Grilled Buttermilk Biscuits with Gingerbread Butter, Jalapeno Hummus, Granny Smith Apple Salsa – I could go on and on and list all 110 but your mouth would be watering all over these pages.
Mathis throws in some lagniappe with several sidebars. One covers notable college-town restaurants, another talks about eating your competition (the opposing teams’ mascot, not the other tailgaters!) and others talk about rivalries and traditions. In all, Mathis does a great job of capturing the spirit of football tailgating and tells the story well. I guess two-and-a-half seasons of tailgating research must have paid off.
If I were to start a hall of fame of barbecue authors (and maybe I will!), Cheryl and Bill Jamison would definitely be first-ballot entrants. The Santa Fe-based pair has written some of the great books on barbecue but oddly enough they didn’t start out as food writers at all.
The Jamisons were originally penning travel guides when an opportunity came before them to do one on southwestern cooking. That one led to two others and then they tried their hands at barbecue, authoring Smoke & Spice in 1994 and Sublime Smoke in 1998. That was back in the dark ages of sorts for books on barbecue; to be frank, there just weren’t that many books on the subject being published each year. They came back with Born to Grill in 1998 and a few years later did Chicken on the Grill and Good Times, Good Griling in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Each one of those books were positively reviewed in this space over the years. In 2010, they released The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining.
With that body of work, these former travel writers now have serious street cred in ‘cue. That’s why you have to take notice when they bring forth a book title, 100 Grilling Recipes You Can’t Live Without: A Lifelong Companion ($16.95, The Harvard Common Press, 244 pp.). Others may tell you they have this list or that list of the most important outdoor cooking recipes and certainly everyone is entitled to their voice in this country. But when someone like the Jamisons come up with a list like this, I for one am really interested in what is on it. Even before I turn the pages, I have no doubt it will be compelling.
Many books written under this theme tend to be very basic while others try to be edgy when assembling the list of recipes. It’s a tricky line between the two that results in a great book that’s true to the claim and the Jamisons have successfully pulled that off. The book is constructed through interesting chapters titled Happy-Hour Grazing; Party-Time Pizzas; Blazing Burgers and Haute Dogs; Fajitas, Tacos, and Other Southwestern Classics; Sizzling Steaks, Chops, and Ribs; Chicken, Duck, and Quail; Spit-Roasted Poultry and Meat; Fired-Up Fish; Succulent Shellfish; Vegetable Main and Side Dishes; and S’Mores and More for Dessert. Those titles caught my interest first thing and I have to give them credit for showing a little flair there. Let’s take the chapter on Blazing Burgers and Haute Dogs as an example of how this book walks that tricky line. The first recipe is pretty basic – All-American Backyard Burgers. From there, the next is Berghoff’s Chicago Beer Burgers, then Caribbean Curry Burgers, Great Plains Bison Burgers, Rosemary and Mint Lamb Burgers, Herb-Rubbed Turkey Burgers, Portobello Burgers and Pacific Rim Tuna Burgers. See the progression there, from basic to creative? The chapter continues with the wursts – Doggone Good Hot Dog, followed by Bratwurst Roll, Sheboygen-Style and Italian Sausage Sandwich. It’s the same with the other chapters as well, start off with the obligatory basic and move to other challenges from there.
So once again the Jamisons have turned out a must-have book. They took on a bold challenge and delivered with an excellent book. But that’s exactly what you’d expect from this soon-to-be hall of fame pair.
A couple of nights ago, I fired up the grill and planned to have cheeseburgers ready for my family when they got home from my son’s football practice. I had some bacon on hand so I used the hot grill to fry up a couple of slices to top off the burgers (this was before I put on the burgers). About that time, I hear my cell phone chime to indicate that I’d gotten a text. I check the text and see that it is from my neighbor, who wrote, “The smells coming from your house are driving us crazy and causing uncontrollable salivating. :-)”. Yep, bacon has that effect.
Who doesn’t love bacon? I even know vegetarians who tell me that bacon is a tough temptation against their commitment. Thus, with salivating neighbors and vegetarians in mind, I’m pleased to tell you about a book that you’ll surely enjoy, Bacon Nation: 125 Irresistible Recipes by Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama ($14.95, Workman Publishing, 310 pp.).
This book is pretty much exactly what you’d expect it to be. It does lead off with a very informative introduction and then dives right into the recipes. Just about any way you can imagine including bacon into a dish is listed in these pages. Many of the recipes come with full-color pictures of the finished dish and then there are gratuitous pictures of beautiful, beautiful bacon thrown in just because. Bacon Jam, Black Bean and Bacon Soup, Curried Broccoli Salad with Bacon, Bacon Brisket and Beer Chili, Pork Roast stuffed with Bacon and Black Mission Figs, Chicken Marsala with Bacon and Sage, Halibut poached in Bacon Broth, Bacon Bolognese with Saffron, Slow-Cooker Pulled Bacon and Bourbon Beans, Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Biscuits and Candied Bacon Slices are just some of the recipes I chose as examples from each chapter. Except for one, that is. The desserts chapter, titled Sweet ‘n Savory, offers the following: Bacon Lace Cookies, Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies, Bacon Granola Bars, Bacon S’mores, Chocolate-Peanut-Bacon Toffee, Caramel Sauce with Bacon and Pecans, Rum Ice Cream with Candied Bacon Chips, Caramelized Pears and Candied Bacon Chips and Apple-Bacon Coffee Cake with Bourbon-Pecan Glaze. Oh my goodness.
The book closes out with a list of 17 recommended resources for top-quality bacon. If you’re like me, you’ll be planning road trips to all of these places soon. Just as soon as you get your copy of Bacon Nation, that is.
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