What America Eats: Tailgating Time!



August 19, 2016

Alison Ashton

As football season prepares to kick off, there’s one thing fans may be anticipating even more eagerly than the action on the gridiron: tailgating. Win or lose, they’re still guaranteed some great food and drink, says Daina Falk. She’s the author of The Hungry Fan’s Game Day Cookbook, coming out this week, just in time to help fuel all the crazy football fun, from face- and body-painting in team colors to friendly corn hole and beer pong games.

The daughter of legendary sports agent David Falk, she grew up around professional athletes but didn’t discover the joys of tailgating until she was a student at Duke University in the early 2000s. “It was the fun thing to do on a Saturday, because Duke football was just so bad,” she recalls. “We weren’t going to win the game, so the fun to be had was actually in the parking lot before, during and after the game.”

She caught the tailgating bug, big time, and went on to make a career creating — and chronicling — the food by fans of all sports. They’re raising the bar on their eats, she notes, as new trends joining beloved tailgating classics like burgers, hot dogs, wings, chili and brats. “On the one hand, you have a growing number of people who are more concerned about the quality of the food they’re eating,” she notes. That may, for example, translate to tailgaters grilling and barbecuing with grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken or pork.

On the flip side, thanks to Instagram, there’s also this growing trend of completely outrageous foods,” she adds, “where you’ve got, like, 10 burger patties stacked on top of each other and sandwiched between donuts.” She credits that craze to younger millennial fans, who love showing off their tailgating creations on social media. “Whether or not people are actually eating these crazy, outrageous foods, it draws a lot of attention and a lot of eyeballs when they post it,” says Falk.

Whether you’re feasting in a stadium parking lot, on a college quad or in your own back yard, Falk brings it all into the tailgating tent—or what she calls “fangating.”

Daina’s Tailgating Tips

The early bird gets the best location. Whenever you think you should arrive, plan to get there even earlier. “I went down to a Houston Texans game in October last year, and people literally were lined up around the side of the highway,” says Falk. “They’d been there since 2 or 3 in the morning.”

Get an accurate head count. “One of the worst things you could do is not have enough food for everybody,” says Falk. So find out who’s really planning to show up, and factor in a little extra food and drink for “drop-ins.”

Appoint a point person. For many fans, tailgating means a potluck, and you’ll want someone to coordinate setup, food and drink.

But share the cost. Between the food and booze, the cost of tailgating adds up quickly. Apps like Venmo and PayPal make it easy for tailgaters pay their share right in the parking lot.

Celebrate the other team, too. “I’m a big fan of celebrating the food cultures of both teams that are playing,” says Falk. It’s a fun—and delicious—way to add variety to your usual tailgating lineup.

Get the Gear!
“A portable grill is a must,” says Falk. We’re fans of the Blue Rhino CrossFire ($89), which can use charcoal or gas.

Keep those beers cold in the sturdy, classic Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler ($81) will last many seasons.

Your guests will have it made in the shade with SportsUnlimited’s 9-foot square Tailgating Tents ($200), available with NCAA and NFL team logos.

Have a seat. Folding chairs are fine, but we’ve got our eye on the WooHoo Inflatable Lounger ($50), which inflates in seconds into a 7-foot couch.

Woolrich’s Cedar Spring and Hudson’s Bay 100-percent wool blankets ($149-$395) are perfect to lay down on the grass — or snuggle under when the weather turns cool.

La Tienda’s Extra-Large 26-inch Traditional Steel Paella Pan ($50) is perfect for our “Big Tex” Frito Pie.

Keep chili, gumbo—or our sliders—warm in Black + Decker’s new 7-Quart Chalkboard Slow Cooker ($40).

No electrical outlet? Falk’s collapsible Hungry Fan Portable Slow Cooker 3-in-1 Fangating Bag ($57) acts like a soft-sided Thermos to keep hot food hot or cold food cold.

Is glass banned at your favorite tailgating spot? Decant your favorite brew into the stylish copper 64-ounce Asobu G2G Stainless Steel Growler 2 Go ($30).

Serve drinks in Camerons’ Deco Stainless Steel Party Cups ($23 for a set of 6), an eco-friendly version of the iconic red Solo cup.

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