From left, Grace Strahan, Susan Ford, Connie Willsey and Emily Owen (that’s Mary Love Tagert behind Owen) set out a indoor pre-game spread Sept. 21 at Ford’s home. The girls, all of Starkville, are part of a tailgating group that follows the Mississippi State Bulldogs. It’s made up of Bill and Susan Ford, Sean and Emily Owen, Les and Holly Potts, Grace Strahan and Craig Piper, Mike and Mary Love Tagert, and Kevin and Connie Willsey. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff
Harper Ford, 8, takes a bite out of dawg bone cookies from The Cake Box. Harper is the daughter of Susan and Bill Ford of Starkville.
Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff
The recipe for Mississippi Sin dip is included in today’s food pages.
Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff
Grace Strahan’s jargaritas (mini margaritas in Mason jars) make a cool, slushy drink.
Photo by: Courtesy photo
September 26, 2013 9:47:36 AM
When it comes to tailgates, the SEC has a reputation for doing it right. Whether you're in the Junction, the Grove, USM's District, Alabama's Quad or any other university's tailgating epicenter, it's all about fans, good food, fellowship and tradition.
That's all well and good, but if you happen to be one of those cooks who has risen with the gameday dawn to prepare, pack up and load a complicated menu and elaborate decorations in the car, you know the pressure can build if you're not careful.
One group in Starkville likes to keep it laid back. With a nucleus of six couples (and 12 children), these friends put the emphasis on kid-friendly and low stress when the Mississippi State Bulldogs take to the field.
"That's kind of how the group came together," said Emily Owen, mother of a 7- and 11-year-old. "We wanted it to be someplace our kids could play with other children they knew, and we wanted it to be flexible and enjoyable." While the guys take care of coolers, TV and technology, the gals are in charge of eats.
When soggy weather threatened on Sept. 21, the couples simply moved their pre-game gathering to the home of Susan and Bill Ford. The menu centered around Boston butt, prepared by Mary Love Tagert, and requisite chicken tenders.
"We take turns being the designated chicken tenders provider every tailgate," smiled Owen. It's the one thing the children can be counted on to gobble up.
Ford made a crunchy coleslaw and a corn salad, dishes she selected from the "Square Table" (Oxford) and "A Sterling Collection" (Memphis Junior League) cookbooks.
"Both of them are vinegar-based, because I don't like to do mayonnaise for a tailgate," said the safety-conscious mother of two girls. "You avoid anything that would start to turn in the sun."
The fare, she added, evolves with game times. "Like for a morning game, we'll have a brunch."
Grace Strahan whipped up some cheesy Mississippi Sin dip, a popular recipe made with cream cheese and sour cream, from Bully's Best Bites cookbook.
"It's really easy to make and people love it," she said, adding that the dish can be varied to make it your own. Her tart cherry "jargaritas" (think margaritas) served up in small Mason jars were a refreshing adult drink.
Owen's Captain Rodney's cheese bake, Tagert's lemon bars and dog bone cookies from the Cake Box rounded out the football feast.
"We try to stick to things that are pick-up items -- we're big on pick-up and walk off with it," Owen pointed out.
To further simplify gameday outings, the group hires someone to set up their site near the MSU Amphitheater in advance. The families show up with food, drinks and team spirit.
"There are services, like Brad Vickers' Southern Tradition Tailgating, that can provide tents, tables, chairs, generators, TV, rope lights and more," Ford noted.
Connie Willsey and her husband Kevin bring games like tailgate golf and bean bag toss to entertain the children, including their two sons. The goal is a fun, relaxed time filled with plenty to eat, good conversation, people-watching and -- if all goes well -- a win on the score board.
For Strahan, who frequently travels for her job as training manager with Synergetics, home game tailgates are always something to look forward to.
"I'm gone a lot during the week, so I know that's going to be a designated time I'm going to be able to spend with my family," she shared.
Willsey added, "We love to be part of the hype of the day. It's a great way to relax after a long week; it's nice to be able to walk around and then have a place to sit down and be an observer. Tailgating is really a wonderful experience!"
Consider some of today's recipes for your own tailgate, gridiron TV marathon or party. They're sure to score some extra points.
Makes 6-8 servings
For the dressing:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 chicken seasoning packet from Ramen noodles
Freshly ground pepper to taste
For the slaw:
1 pound package chopped coleslaw mix
1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds (or other nuts)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 package Ramen noodles, broken into little pieces
n For dressing, in a jar mix together all dressing ingredients and shake well. Refrigerate 24 hours.
n For slaw, in a salad serving bowl toss together all slaw ingredients. Pour dressing over slaw just before serving and mix well.
(Source: Square Table: A Collection of Recipes from Oxford, Mississippi)
SUMMER CORN SALAD
Makes 12 servings
For the salad:
4 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cucumber, peeled, chopped
1 large tomato, seeded, chopped
1 purple onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
For the dressing:
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise or mayonnaise type salad dressing (like ranch)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Shredded salad greens
Chopped red bell pepper
n For the salad, combine the corn with a small amount of water in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook, covered, for 5-7 minutes or until tender-crisp. Drain and cool to room temperature. Combine with the cucumber, tomato, onion and bell pepper in a large bowl and mix well.
n For dressing, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, dry mustard, celery seeds, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Spread over the corn mixture, sealing to the edge of the bowl. Chill, covered, for 8 hours or longer.
n Toss the salad lightly to serve. Garnish with shredded lettuce and red bell pepper. (You may substitute 2 10-ounce packages of frozen whole kernel corn for fresh corn.)
(Source: A Sterling Collection: The Best of the Junior League of Memphis)
Makes about 10 half-pint jars
1 can frozen limeade concentrate
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups tart cherry juice
1 cup tequila
3/4 cup triple sec
n In a large pitcher, combine all of the ingredients and stir. Pour into mason jars. Leave about 1/2 inch at the top of each jar. Place lids on top and screw on tightly. Freeze for at least 5 hours. Place out to thaw an hour or so before serving. They will be thick and slushy, but you can shake the jar to mix them up.
MISSISSIPPI SIN DIP
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced ham, chopped
1 each 4-ounce can green chilies, chopped
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
Salt and pepper
1 loaf French bread
n Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut off the top of your bread and hollow out the inside, leaving about a 1-inch shell. Reserve the bread and cut into cubes or tear into chunks for serving. Wrap bread bowl with foil. This will help you to transport and serve for tailgating. Place onto a large round cookie sheet or pizza pan.
n Cream together the cream cheese and sour cream until well blended. Add remaining ingredients. Spoon cheese mixture into bread bowl. Cover bowl and cheese mixture with foil and bake for 1 hour; serve hot.
(Note: This can be prepared and baked without the bread bowl. Simply bake in a shallow baking dish and serve with crackers, vegetables or corn chips.)
(Source: Bully's Best Bites, Starkville Junior Auxiliary)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 each 8-ounce pack cream cheese
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 green onions, chopped
6 Ritz crackers, crushed
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup of any Captain Rodney's Glaze
n Mix mayonnaise, cream cheese, cheddar and onions in greased quiche pan. Top with crackers and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Top with bacon and Captain Rodney's Pepper Glaze. Serve with crackers.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.