September 8, 2010 10:56:00 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Saturday''s kick-offs heralded more than another autumn of gridiron action; they launched a fresh season of tailgating, too. Mother Nature bestowed a gorgeous gameday on thousands of football fans filling Mississippi campuses to meet, greet and eat. The Southeastern tailgate in particular, some would say, has evolved into a religion. More than a game, this is a ritual, a party, a homecoming, a social event for you and a few hundred of your best friends.
In Starkville at The Junction -- the area by Davis Wade Stadium designated for tailgating -- Mississippi State University alumni Vivian and Tommy Yeatman of Columbus, and Teri (Tommy''s sister) and Bruce Blaise of Starkville were among the sprawling army rolling out maroon and white for the Bulldogs'' match-up with the Memphis Tigers. For each home game, the couples join up with friends in a four-tent base that often flies the banner, "Absolut Dawgs."
"We love MSU and MSU sports," Vivian said. "Tailgating is a family event as much as anything, and we wanted to establish some family traditions with it." The Yeatman''s oldest son, Luke, is a former Bulldog. He and his wife, Laura Catherine, live in Madison now but rarely miss a home game gathering. A younger son, Trent, is an MSU senior.
Several other friends, including alumni Kathy and Roland Slover of Madison, are involved on a regular basis, but when it comes to deciding menus among the group, "it''s really not too hard," says Teri. "We just try to make sure nobody''s bringing the same main dish." For Saturday''s game, for instance, Teri and Bruce brought catfish; Vivian and Tommy provided ribs.
For appetizers and side dishes, cookbooks, the Internet, Food Network and friends are bottomless resources. Teri likes Southern Living for recipes adaptable to football weekends. "And I''m always picking up cookbooks for their appetizer sections," she admitted.
At The Grove at Ole Miss, Diane and David Earwood are one of about 27 families that take part in the Columbus Rebel Tent. There, pre-game feasting benefits from a successful system or rotating hosts.
"A four-family committee is in charge of all food and table decorations for each game," said Diane, whose son Brad finished at the university. The Earwood''s youngest son, Kevin, is now attending. "It''s wonderful for your child to have a place to bring friends or dates on game days. Even if you''re unable to come, they have a place to have great food and see hometown friends."
Serious tailgating isn''t for the faint-hearted. That outdoor home-away-from-home (often complete with TV) doesn''t happen without a well-oiled plan for hauling in tents, tables, chairs, generators, satellite and all the paraphernalia that create that pigskin ambiance for your open air eatery. Your group can avoid a lot of grief if everyone makes it a point to get familiar with tailgate regulations. They vary from campus to campus and can change each year.
Tent sizes, unloading and access are only the start of what everybody should know. At MSU, the playing of "Hail State" at 5 p.m. the Friday before a Saturday game signals the opening of The Junction for tailgate set-up. (For weekday games, set up can start five hours prior to game time.) Ole Miss'' gameday committee has ruled no set up before 10 p.m. the Friday night before a home game.
"We have loyal fans and supporters across Mississippi," Andy Mullins, University of Mississippi gameday committee chair, said in a press release. "Some only travel across town, but others travel many hours, and we are trying to give all our fans equal access for their favorite tailgating locations."
New at MSU this year, Dining Services offers the Junction Grill, at the corner of Creelman and Stone Boulevard, serving gameday favorites and providing tailgating supplies.
Other tailgate guidelines can be found for MSU at www.msstate.edu (click on Football Gameday in the lower right corner, then 2010 Gameday Fan Guide). For Ole Miss, go to www.olemiss.edu, then to Athletics and Recreation.
On any SEC campus, snacking one''s way from tent to tent can be an art form. Cholesterol and calories are worries for another day as the gameday smorgasbord opens. Vivian, Teri and Diane share a few of their favorite recipes for appetizers, like baked cheese and sausage dip, carnival crawfish dip, fruit skewers and more. Vivian also shares a vegetable pizza recipe (courtesy of Deborah Dye) she used to prepare the veggie snacks pictured. (For hers, Vivian chose to use cherry tomatoes, broccoli and carrots.) Try one of these recipes out for your next spread.
Even for seasoned hands at tailgating, each year''s first pre-game ritual is still something special. For a few more hours, your team is undefeated. Anticipation flows freely, and every championship looks possible. For many, it''s the first chance to hail old friends since last season''s final home game.
"It''s just all the excitement of being on campus ..." says Teri. " ... being with friends and family," Bruce finishes.
Ask any of them ... it''s a feeling that never seems to get old.
Two packages crescent rolls
8-ounce package cream cheese (softened)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch dry dressing mix (not the dip mix)
Chopped vegetables of your choice
Finely grated cheeses (cheddar & Monterey jack)
n Beat the cream cheese, mayonnaise and ranch dry dressing together and spread on the cooled roll layer.
(Courtesy of Vivian Yeatman/Deborah Dye)
Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1-1/2 7-ounce jars marshmallow cream
2 ounces orange liquor (optional)
Squirt of lemon or lime juice
(Courtesy of Peggy Yeatman)
BAKED CHEESE AND SAUSAGE DIP
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1 pound sausage, cooked and drained
One small can of green chilies, chopped
One round Hawaiian bread
(Courtesy of Teri Blaise)
AND SWISS DIP
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
Eight slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup crushed Ritz crackers
(Courtesy of Teri Blaise/Brenda Comer)
CARNIVAL CRAWFISH DIP
2 pounds fresh or frozen peeled crawfish tails
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1/2 cup butter or margarine
24 ounces cream cheese
Eight cloves garlic, minced, or 2 teaspoons powder
2 tablespoons ground red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken broth (if using fresh crawfish)
(Courtesy of Diane Earwood)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.