Taylor Mathis, author of “The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, and the South,” has a passion for food and college towns.
Mathis, a Charlotte native, went to 35 football games around the country over a span of three years to do research on foods at college tailgating parties. His cookbook, the product of his culinary exploration, was released last month by UNC Press.
Part of his research included attending games at different times of the day in order to assess which types of foods would work best and when.
But he said climate is also an important aspect to consider when planning meals.
“When it’s super-hot, you don’t want hot chocolate, you want a more refreshing drink,” he said.
The book focuses on every aspect of the tailgating meal, starting with drink recipes like the lime cooler punch, and then different recipes for side dishes, main meals, such as jambalaya, and desserts, such as deep-fried cookie dough.
Food is an important aspect in Southern culture, said history professor Bill Ferris.
“They say you are what you eat,” he said. “The American South at every period in its history has been deeply defined by the kinds of foods that we eat. Southerners love to eat outside in picnics, so tailgating is a very natural part of Southern life that draws on our love of food and our association of food with sports events.”
History professor Harry Watson said football is a staple of Southern culture because of the male bravado that it epitomizes.
“Football is immensely important as a test of manhood, endurance and semi-military virtues, all of which have been so important in Southern culture for so long,” Watson said.
But family traditions, like recipes, handed down through generations play a role as well.
“They pass down recipes from generation to generation as a way of honoring the memory of different ancestors,” Ferris said. “At a tailgating event there might be apple pie and chicken and dumplings cooked from recipes that family members have shared.”
Mathis said the recipes in his cookbook are laid out so that even beginners can follow them — no fancy equipment required.
He said a passionate fan base is the driving force behind tailgating.
“I went to smaller schools like Davidson and Appalachian State, and then I also went to schools like Alabama,” Mathis said. “Places where you have passionate fans, you’re going to have great tailgating.”
Tailgating is also a way for college friends to meet up after graduation.
“Once you get out of college, you move away from everyone you knew, and a tailgate is a great way to come to a central location and meet up on game days,” Mathis said.
“Football and food together — it doesn’t get much better than that.”
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