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Tailgating Food? Sometimes, It’s All Relative

Nathan Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)
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ATLANTA, UNITED STATES:  St. Louis Rams football fans grill hamburgers during a tailgate party near the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, January 30, 2000. (Photo by TONY RANZE/AFP/Getty Images)

ATLANTA, UNITED STATES: St. Louis Rams football fans grill hamburgers during a tailgate party near the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, January 30, 2000. (Photo by TONY RANZE/AFP/Getty Images)

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Tailgating is a lot of things. It’s drinks with friends. It’s getting geared up for a big game. It’s painted faces, tossing a football around and debating whose fantasy football team is better.

Tailgating is also food. Lots of food. In fact, if there’s one staple of a good tailgate it’s a spread that would please the football gods.

The spreads come in different forms. Some are standard – chicken wings, bratwurst, hamburgers. Low maintenance foods like chips and dip are tailgate mainstays. Anything that can be cooked on a grill is a solid bet to show up at a tailgate near you.

But for those more adventurous, other options exist. In exploring local tailgates, one of the more prevalent ideas was food tailored to specific teams. Tom Reilly, who has been tailgating before Rams games since the team moved to St. Louis in 1995, said he had 35 pounds of “sea hag” wings on hand when the Seattle Seahawks visited the Edward Jones Dome last Sunday. When the New Orleans Saints come into town, jambalaya is on the menu.

Other tailgaters get even more creative with their team-specific spreads. Tony Switzer, who along with 15 or so other Rams fans has tailgated at a lot adjacent to the Dome for the past six years, said the group has done hot dogs for when the Chicago Bears come to town, crawdads for the aforementioned Saints and chicken for last week’s Seahawks showdown. But the most unique dining was Mexican cuisine when the Washington Redskins visited in week two. Why Mexican?

“All the politicians are trying to get the Mexican vote,” Switzer quipped.

Add Tex-Mex for the Dallas Cowboys and cheese steaks for the Philadelphia Eagles to the list. Those two are courtesy of Dave MacDonald and Joann Donelon’s tailgating group, which also has a tradition of bringing shrimp to every tailgate. Every tailgate?

“Until the Rams win the Super Bowl,” MacDonald said.

No further explanation needed (or given, incidentally).

Some fans take their team-tailored menus to another level, though. While nobody admitted to having eaten a cardinal when Arizona is in town – in St. Louis, that could be viewed as sacrilege – Al Karban said his group has foregone the more popular chicken substitute and actually tried to eat a seahawk once. (Ed’s note: there’s little evidence a seahawk is an actual bird. Which makes the following quote even more disturbing.)

“We tried to eat seahawk once,” Karban said. “It didn’t taste too good.”

Any other mascots your group has tasted?

“Ever tried to eat a 49er?” fellow tailgater Ed Saunders asked. “Tastes like gold dust.”

That’s one spread I’m in no hurry to sample.

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