For me, the Super Bowl represents the true end of a Holiday season that started back in October with Halloween. What makes this season so wondrous to me is the fact that all of them have food play a distinct part in the festivities. Having said that, it is important to note for all of you would-be Martha Stewarts out there that the Super Bowl comes with its own set of rules and traditions.
I seem to mention these rules every year, but almost always some yahoo goes ahead and ignores them, and then makes a faux pas that clearly indicates that they have no idea what is so damn important about Super Bowl Sunday.
So what is so important about the football day to end all football days? After growing up in Pittsburgh during the 1970′s and living off Campus at The Ohio State Univsity, where tailgating is an art, I have found a clear answer. Super Bowl Sunday is about all things football. This includes the teams participating, the game itself, the commercials supporting the game, the halftime show. In short, it’s not about you.
This is not your time to shine, this is not your time to whip up a fancy meal. No one who is there to watch the game with any seriousness gives a rat’s-patoot on the fact that you’ve spent day’s looking for the perfect recipe for your lime sherbet punch. And the phrase “Healthy Super Bowl Recipes” should be avoided at all costs. Where other holidays have food at or near the top in importance, for Super Bowl Sunday, food ranks somewhere below the importance of whether the commercials were entertaining and whether the halftime show is worth sacrificing the all important bathroom break.
Don’t get me wrong, the food needs to be good, but anything that smacks of attention grabbing is a no-no. Here are some guidelines:
Don’t go fancy: Keep it simple, and stick to recipes that have a broad appeal. Hamburgers and hot dogs work well, but your Grilled Eggplant Sub with Mozzarella and Tomato Jam reeks of “too much effort.” Ditto for your “smoked salmon pizza”. Honestly, no one is going to care if you put pomegranates in your guacamole.
Go to the unhealthy: This day, more than any other in America, is the one where it’s okay to eat as if you’re a college freshman with money to burn. Barbecue, pizza, and beer are the standards, not the exceptions. If you must have salad, steer towards those with mayonnaise.
It’s a buffet: On Super Bowl Sunday, there are no appetizers and desserts. Insisting on otherwise means that you want to control when food is served. The pace of the football game is likely to dictate otherwise.
The more finger food, the better: Chips and dip, sandwiches, and Buffalo Wings are long established football tailgating traditions that, by design, leave eating utensils as an option. Foods that require anything more complicated than a fork should be left for another day.
Drinks: Think back to any football game you’ve attended. Did they serve wine? Leave your bottles corked and stick to beer and drinks that require minimal amounts of effort, and don’t leave your guests tipsy by the end of the first quarter. Margaritas are okay, Long Island Iced Teas are not.
No Soups: Seriously? Soup? Have you even been to a football game? Stews on the other hand are somewhat acceptable, with Chili being a classic dish.
Menus can highlight the teams in the Big Game: That means Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Étouffée for New Orleans (and Hurricanes for you amateur bartenders). For Indianapolis it means… I don’t know, what? A gallon of milk? Who goes to Indianapolis for food?
The key point to remember here is that the food is here to support the viewing of the game and any conversation surrounding topics relating to the game. It is not a focal point. If you feel as if Super Bowl Sunday is better served by you foisting squash salad on your guests, and demanding that everyone sit down at the table in order to eat your New York Cheesecake that you made especially for the event, you better re-evaluate your position. Because Super Bowl Sunday is also the one Food Holiday in the year where you, the chef, are not important, and can easily be replaced by a quick run to the 7-11.