The Southern Tailgating Cookbook, by Taylor Mathis, is now available from UNC Press. cloth, $30
Ah, the bright fall Saturdays at football games across the South. Whether it’s in Baton Rouge, Oxford, Tuscaloosa, or Gainesville, there’s a time-honored tradition of gathering friends and family together at the football stadium before the Big Game for an elaborate, or even simple, picnic. Mathis says, “You’ll understand why a game day in the South is unlike any other,” when you read his book. Tailgating across the South in twelve states, he gathered 110 recipes—and made many photographs of Southern football fans wearing bow ties at Ole Miss and checked dresses in honor of Coach Bryant at Alabama–to produce this The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, & the South. He says, “I never went hungry and was always asked if I needed a drink or a plate of food.” It’s not just football – it’s Culture, and in the South, that will always include food.
Mathis makes the point early on that tailgaters are on-site caterers, and he provides not just superb recipes, but useful information on how to prepare, how to pack, how to serve, and how to clean up at what can be very large catered events. It’s just another form of entertaining, but it sure helps to have some advice about, for example, storing drinks in one cooler and raw meat and ingredients in another. And there’s that recommendation for a tent, and team-color coordinated serve ware. This guy really wants you to have a good time at your next game.
You’ll certainly eat well if you use his recipes and menu suggestions. The book covers recipes in several categories—Drinks, Breakfast, Appetizers and Snacks, Sides, Main Meals, Sandwiches and Soups, and Desserts. I wanted to try the Biscuits and Sawmill Gravy for my next brunch, even if it’s not in a parking lot by a football stadium—and Poppy Seed-Pale Ale Beer Bread, that Mathis tells us got his mother through undergraduate school at Duke and law school at UNC. The Pimento Cheese Club sandwich sounds delightful, and I think that Sweet Potato and Three-Bean Chili would be great for any fall event. The Grill-Spiced Pecans would make an interesting snack during the holidays. Roasted Sweet Potato Salad is an unusual take on potato salad, with pineapple and orange zest combining with the sweet potatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, scallions, cilantro, and jalapeno to make a colorful addition to your Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Labor Day cookout. Mathis likes it especially if your team’s colors include orange!
But apart from being a collection of good recipes, The Southern Tailgating Cookbook is a guidebook to the football culture of the South. It’s almost an anthropological field study, with “Sidebars” that relate such esoteric information as game-day cries at different schools, the band’s guide to tailgating, and local restaurants and bars that are part of the university’s traditional hangouts. Roll Tide! And Geaux Tigers! Hook ‘Em Horns! And don’t forget to watch the game.
The Southern Tailgating Cookbook by Taylor Mathis
240 pp., 8 x 9.25, 75 color plates, index, 15 sidebars