Once upon a time, tailgating was quite literally bringing along a brown bag and beverage of choice to sit on someone’s tailgate before or during a game. Things have evolved quite a bit, though, and such simplicity is a thing of the past.
Today, tailgating in the South is basically an art form and most certainly taken seriously. The event can last all day, beginning with a cup (or cups) of coffee and ending when the crowd finally sleeps. There are generally three goals one aims to achieve, and usually depending on the school, you may ere more strongly in one area than another: food, fun, and fabulous! Here are a few ways to win at the tailgate game.
Let's start with food—the top priority, in our opinion! Tailgate food is the best and serves as the perfect chance to show off your culinary skills. You want to keep things complimentary, though. Too much spicy food might be too hard on some palates, and too many richer options may make it hard not to take a nap in the middle of game day. Choosing a variety that pairs well is key.
Another way to simplify—minimize the number of food options that need to stay warm. More than a couple of crockpots or warming dishes can get really bulky and take up so much space that it limits the items you're able to serve. More food is always better! Some of our favorite tailgating recipes are Savory and Sweet Espresso Brined Wings, Southern Tomato Pie, Fresh Fig and Goat Cheese Tart, and of course, Classic Homemade BBQ Sauces, like Alabama White Sauce.
In a pinch, extra chips, pretzels, or crackers make a great back up for unexpected guests and making the menu stretch a bit further. A good rule of thumb is to prepare for 25% more guests than your party includes. If there are 30 in the crowd, prep for 38-40.
Another way to prepare for the unexpected, and also possibly draw them in, is fun. Cornhole is always a crowd-pleaser, but a frisbee and football will entertain guests of any age. Many online and larger stores sell “yard size” versions of popular games such as dice, dominos, and Jenga (but these can also be accomplished by way of DIY).
Music makes any party better, so a speaker that connects to your phone will take the party to the next tier. It will also allow you to stream the game later for those not attending, which is obviously vital.
As much as we all love a fabulous team-themed presentation, clean up is usually left to one or two folks, so take it easy on yourself. We Mississippians love a good piece of local pottery to present our cuisine, but something lighter in weight and easier to transfer may be a better route in times like these. Try some cloth napkins, either school colors or seasonally-themed, draped inside shallow baskets or wood crates to display dry foods.
Mason jars are magical containers that manage to flow with almost every setting. These can hold dips, condiments, toppings, or even silverware. Larger jars can hold tea, punch, coffee drinks, and soups...the options are really limitless.
Blankets, banners, twinkle lights (when there is access to power), and a small arrangement make for easy, lightweight, and pleasant decor. Thinking along these lines will create an aesthetically pleasing yet manageable set-up and tear-down.
Creating an inviting environment to welcome friends, family, and classmates can be easily achieved without stress or having to disengage in order to maintain. Just plan ahead, keep it simple, and have fun... after all, it is a game!
Speaking of Tailgating, we're having a tailgating contest. Learn more about it here!