Here in the South, football tailgates are part of the rhythm of autumn. From the formal events at Ole Miss, where you had better be sure hubby has a necktie, to the grilled pizza feasts like I attended at Florida State. They are all a ball!
Tailgating is fun when someone has organized for the event. It is not so fun if the beverages are warm, and you have found yourself sitting on a hot concrete curb with a soggy paper plate and no fork.
If you are in charge of organizing a tailgate event, do not stress out. It can be a lot of fun and it does not have to be a lot of work. Many tailgate picnics are held as potlucks. Others have a theme, such as the gourmet pizza one I, personally, munched my way through.
Get a headcount of how many people will need to be fed.
Decide on the food. Will it be a potluck, barbecue, take-out, or a combination of all of these?
Keep in mind outdoor kettles allow you to prepare gumbos, stews, and soup for those cold games.
No matter what main meal you plan, tailgaters, expect part of the fun to be plenty of traditional snacks from chips and dips to platters of brownies. So plan on snack foods.
Divide up and assign food, beverages, ice, and paper products among your guests.
Create a must-bring packing list and pass that to your guests too. They will be much happier having a chair and other things they may need.
Show some team spirit by working the team colors into your paper goods. Bring anything you can, such as a flag or sign for the team, which shows how fan-tastic you are.
Plan the Timing:
Check when the football game starts. Plan to allow enough time to cook, eat, and clean up in a relaxed fashion before kick-off. If you are preparing more than one dish, make a list of what time the grill needs to heat or the dish needs to begin cooking.
Prep Ahead – Mise en Place:
Check out Lea’s article Mise en Place – Begin Cooking with Mise en Place.
You are there to have fun with your friends and family. Do not leave the prep work until game day. T he day before your tailgate party, dice and cut-up ingredients and store them in plastic bags or containers.
You can even prepare the whole dish, like a pot of chili, at home. Then bring it cold to the game and simmer it there.
As part of your planning, figure out how people will handle the food. If you can, bring lap trays or purchase really sturdy disposable platters.
Pack It Up:
The night before, pack the car with everything except the cooler. Leave a spot for it which is easily assessable. You’ll enjoy your day off when you only need to load the cold things and head out.
Checklist of Tailgating Essentials
Here are some items you might want to remember for your tailgate party. Once you’ve gone once, you can create your own master list on the computer and just print it out for each tailgate party:
- Grill or other cooking equipment
- Charcoal or propane
- Matches or lighter
- Fire extinguisher
- Cooking tools (like tongs or spatula)
- Hot pads to protect your hands
- Sharp knife and small cutting board
- Folding tables(s)
- Disposable tablecloths ( this mean you won’t have to load a yucky table back in your car)
- Condiments and seasonings
- Trays or basket for food and chips
- Coolers (one for beverages and one for food)
- Bottle opener
- Wine opener
- Can opener
- Serving Utensils Aluminum foil and plastic bags (for packaging leftovers back into the cooler)
- Trash bags
- Jug of water (for rinsing or washing)
- Paper towels or dish towels
- Hand sanitizer
- Disposable wet wipes
- Sunscreen lotion
- Bug spray
- Entertainment (football, cards, bean bag toss, etc.)
- Music and player
- Box or laundry basket lined with a trash bag (for carting home dirty dishes or platters)
- Batteries (for music and other items)
- Lights and flashlights (if it will get dark before you are finished)
- First aid kit
- Blankets and portable heater in cold weather
- Cold weather/rain gear from hats to gloves, ponchos, hand/food warmers, etc.
- Shade tent in hot weather
Author Lea Schneider, a columnist for What’s Cooking America, is a freelance writer and organizational expert whose organizing ideas have been published in many magazines including Woman’s Day, Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen and Bath Ideas, Family Circle, Parents Magazine, as well as numerous newspapers and websites. She is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.
Getting organized is all about living simpler and making things easier. The bonus is it often leads to saving money. Lea Schneider’s kitchen organizing columns tell you how to organize the many things that relate to kitchens, menus, meals, and special food events.
Check out all of Lea Schneider’s helpful home and kitchen columns at Organizing Kitchens, Pantries, Menus and Meals.