Southerners take tailgating seriously, turning it into sport

aweigl@newsobserver.comSeptember 10, 2013 

In the South, we do college tailgating differently.

There’s the fashion: sundresses and pearls, skirts and cowboy boots, khakis and bow ties.

There’s the food: shrimp boils, oyster roasts, pig pickins.

There’s a number of reasons for this: the longtime lack of professional sports teams, making college football king, and the region’s warm temperatures well into November, which makes eating outside – even in a parking lot – enjoyable.

Raleigh food writer Debbie Moose researched tailgating culture across the country for her cookbook, “Fan Fare.” She discovered that Yale, Rutgers and Princeton all claim to be the birthplace of tailgating, that University of Hawaii fans grill fish on hibachis, and that the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville is called the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party.”

And Moose came to the conclusion that Southerners are the most serious tailgaters. “I think we’ve taken it to a whole different level. Part of it is our deep attachment to college football. Part of it is the weather,” she says.

That seriousness could be seen among the 40 or so members of Don’s Tailgate Club at the recent N.C. State-Louisiana Tech game. Not even the breakdown of Don Annas’ Wolfpack red van on the way to Carter-Finley Stadium could stop the fun. Annas and his crew just moved all the tailgating supplies into three other vehicles and still arrived more than two hours before the 12:30 kick-off.

All the must-have dishes were on hand: Ashley Currin’s blueberry cobbler, Faye Currin’s bean dip and Charlie Miller’s banana pudding. Plus, there were egg and hash brown casseroles, French toast, bacon, sausage and much more.

The group dates back to the mid-1980s, and now the children of some of the group’s original members have grown up and are regular attendees.

“We’ve got a second generation going on,” said Will Autry, 51, of Apex. “It’s a wonderful group of people. It’s an extended family is what it is.”

In Charlotte, UNC-Charlotte alumni are starting a new tailgating tradition with the first season of the 49ers football team. Likely, the most stoked fan is Rob Dibble, 40, who converted a 1992 Chevy ambulance into “ The Normbulance,” named after the team mascot. Dibble, a training manager at a Charlotte financial firm, painted the ambulance the school colors of green and gold.

For the first game against Campbell University, Dibble concocted a special cocktail for a pregame toast. He added green food coloring to Goldschlager and planned to call it “Ninerschlager.”

Even Dibble has noticed that tailgating isn’t the same outside the South. He once went to an Oregon football game and said, “I asked where the cornhole was and everybody just looked at me.”

To see printable recipes, click on the links below:

Munchable Marinated Shrimp

Hot Ham Rolls

Fluffy Egg Casserole

Mary Black’s Blueberry Cobbler

Munchable Marinated Shrimp From “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home,” by Debbie Moose (Harvard Common Press, 2007) 3 quarts water One 3-ounce box crab or shrimp boil-in-a-bag, such as Zatarain’s 3 limes 2 pounds medium-size shrimp 3/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup sherry vinegar 3/4 teaspoon whole celery seed 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1/4 teaspoon whole yellow mustard seed 1/2 cup chopped green onions 1 tablespoon drained capers 2 cloves garlic, crushed Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

POUR water into a large saucepan. Add crab boil-in-a-bag, squeeze in juice of 1 lime, and toss in the squeezed halves. Bring to a boil. Add shrimp and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, just until shrimp are pink and done. Drain, discard lime halves and crab boil, then plunge shrimp into ice water to stop cooking. When shrimp are cool enough to handle, drain, peel and devein then, place in a large bowl and set aside.

COMBINE juice of remaining 2 limes, olive oil, vinegar, celery seed, red pepper flakes, mustard seed, green onions, capers and garlic in a medium-size bowl. Add salt and pepper. Pour this mixture over the shrimp and stir to coat. Cover bowl tightly with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours. Stir occasionally to keep all shrimp coated with the seasoning. Sprinkle parsley on top before serving.

Yield: 8-10 servings.

Hot Ham Rolls From “The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football & the South,” by Taylor Matthis (University of North Carolina Press, 2013) 24 party rolls or 12 dinner rolls 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced thin 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 1 stick unsalted butter, softened 3 tablespoons spicy brown mustard 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce 1/2 pound good quality Virginia baked ham, sliced very thin 1/3 pound Swiss cheese, sliced very thin

USE rolls that are connected together in sheets of 6 dinner rolls or 12 party rolls, with 2 sheets per package. Cut both sheets horizontally, creating a top and bottom layer.

MELT tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes, just until onions start to soften. Remove from heat.

ADD stick of softened butter, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco in a small bowl. Stir together until smooth and a creamy spread has formed.

SPREAD mustard and butter mixture evenly over each cut side of the rolls. Place an even layer of ham on the bottom half of the rolls. On top of ham, spread an even layer of onions. On top of the onions, add an even layer of Swiss cheese. Place the top layer of the rolls on the cheese, onion and ham layers. Wrap each sheet of 6 or 12 rolls separately in a layer of aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. Transport to your tailgate in a cooler.

PLACE foil-wrapped rolls on a medium-high grill for 10-15 minutes until the cheese and butter melts. Flip rolls halfway through. Once cooked, remove from grill and let cool for 1 minute. Cut rolls apart before serving.

Yield: 12-24 servings Fluffy Egg Casserole From Don’s Tailgate Club at N.C. State University, Kimberly Marcom of Garner. Marcom notes that this is a good dish for people who do not eat meat. 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese 8 ounces shredded Colby cheese 4 ounces chopped green chilis, drained 1 quart large curd cottage cheese 1/2 cup flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 10 eggs 1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled

PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

COMBINE Monterey Jack cheese, Colby cheese, chilis and cottage cheese in a large bowl. Sift together flour and baking powder, then add to cheeses. In another bowl, beat the eggs well and then add 1/2 cup melted butter. Add to cheese and flour mixture and stir to thoroughly mix. Pour into baking dish.

BAKE at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking for 30 minutes.

Yield: 12-16 servings Mary Black’s Blueberry Cobbler From Ashley Currin of Salisbury. Currin notes that you can use this basic recipe with any fruit, and you can decrease the sugar and use it to make chicken pot pie. This recipe came from Currin's grandmother. 3 cups blueberries 1 cup sugar 1 stick butter, melted 1 cup milk 1 cup flour

PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees.

PLACE blueberries in 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Combine sugar, melted butter, milk and flour in a large bowl. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour over blueberries.

BAKE for about 30 to 45 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.

Yield: 12-16 servings

Weigl: 919-829-4848; Twitter: @andreaweigl

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