If you are from Texas, you know football season runs the fall calendar. Over the years the art of throwing a good tailgate has become more and more important in making each game day one to remember. What you serve and how you serve it can help you pull together the perfect tailgate every home weekend.
There is No ‘I’ in Team
The definition of tailgating is to host or attend a social gathering at which an informal meal is served. Before we can even begin to talk about what should be on the menu, we have to tackle the act of gathering. The camaraderie built through a love of football or a specific team is hard to beat, and tailgating is an easy way to celebrate that bond. It is safe to say one of the best parts of throwing a tailgate is creating a space for friends and fellow fans to come spend time together before, or even after, a big game.
Start by forming your own team. Hosting is always more fun when you can do it with a few friends or family members, so gather your crew and make a game plan. Having two or three couples or individuals host together takes pressure off one single person to be responsible for the shindig every weekend. Tailgating with a set group allows you to share responsibility for everything from location to food, and it is much more likely to become a recurring event every football season.
Once you have your tailgating team locked in, it is important to dish out who is bringing what to the table every week. An easy way to divvy up the charge is to think about who is coming from where; take travel into account! If someone lives in town, ask them to grab the spot and bring the tables, canopies, and seats. If another couple likes to arrive early, ask them to handle the main meal and full coolers. And if you have people who make the road trip every weekend no matter what time the game is, ask them to bring appetizers and desserts that can be prepped the night before. Everyone needs a little consistency in their life, and once your friends know your tailgate is the place to be, word will spread, and people will look forward to the gathering under your tent just as much as the upcoming game.
It can be really easy to throw a get together for your family and friends, but one of the simplest ways to take your tailgate to the next level is through open hospitality. Saturday football can turn a small college town into a bustling metropolis overnight, and the odds are there will be more than a few people without a place to hang out before the game. Adopt an air of sportsmanship: make sure you have more than enough to eat and drink and make your tailgate a place where everyone is welcome. Offer games like corn hole and ladder ball for kids (adults, too), and set up a television for full game day coverage so people can have a place to relax, keep up with stats, and enjoy the company. Invite visitors who have traveled a long way, friends of friends that need a bite to eat, and especially the other team’s fans. No matter how the game plays out, allow the hospitable nature of your gathering to leave a good taste in the mouth of anyone and everyone you host.
Food for Thought
Once you have your team lined up, focus on the best ways to feed them. Even though the fans under your tent will not be stepping onto the field, they need just as much energy to survive game day, and they are counting on your tailgate to get it. There is an art form to feeding the masses at a tailgate, and it starts with what you serve. Just like any other menu, your tailgate needs variety when it comes to what is cooked up every week. The key is to stick to food that can be easily held in one hand and consumed while standing in case seating is low. Rotating between options like burgers, sausage wraps, Frito pie in a bag, street tacos, and pulled pork sandwiches will keep your menu fresh, and turn first time guests into regulars.
People may show up for your main meal, but you know they are staying for dessert. Anything from cookies to cake to pie will do the trick. Just make sure you have enough options to satisfy the sweet tooth of whoever comes your way. After you have mastered your menu for the season, think about how you serve it. Be conscious of the game time! Let people know every week there is a set time the main meal will be served so they can plan accordingly. Football Saturdays are long; people will be stopping into snack and grab a cold one throughout the day. Make sure to keep a steady stock of beer, Gatorade, bottled water, and anything else you want available.
When it comes to snacking guests, try rolling out different treats in phases before the main course. Start with some grilled sausage, cheese, and crackers to get the grill fired up and give people a taste of what is to come. Then break out the chips, dip, and fruit trays. Whether you like corn salsa or queso, apples or grapes, these are staple items for every tailgate in any given month.
If your team gets hit with an early game, stock your spot with mimosas, coffee, and donuts. A small appearance for breakfast will add to your tailgate’s reputation of consistency. Also, if you are planning on hosting a meal for post-game, it is the perfect opportunity to invite people back for more food later. If your team gets the night slot, let people know you will have some small snacks out after the game if anyone would like to come by and grab something before hitting the road. This is a great way to clear out any leftovers you might have, and say one more thank you to anyone who stopped in that day.
With these simple tips, you will come to find tailgating can be much more than a pre-game or post-game event. It is an opportunity to gather together, share food and drinks, make new friends, and serve people well.