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All-American Traditions: Football and Tailgating

Sep 27, 2011 02:19AM ● By Erin Frisch


Bringing Together Family And Friends

College students were playing rugby and soccer long before the first intercollegiate match gave football its start. Pickup games were frequent and each school made up, and frequently changed, the rules. Dartmouth was famous for “old division football.” The game’s odd rules and melee-like play kept potential challengers at a distance. Still, it became a local favorite in the early 1800s and was played for more than a century.

Rutgers and Princeton claim the honor of playing the first intercollegiate football game in 1869. The home team prevailed with Rutgers winning the day in front of 100 cheering fans. Played on an oversized field in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the contest was a far cry from modern football. However, this match of wits, skill, and strength drew a crowd and gave rise to a whole host of traditions and rivalries.

Where There’s Football, There’s Food

Rumor has it that there were tailgaters at that first game in New Jersey as well as those that followed. Traveling by wagon and carriage, spectators came from far and wide to see the historic game. Hungry after the long trip, they perched on their tailgates to enjoy a late lunch while watching the game. Or so they say. Yale and Green Bay also claim to have invented this tradition.

Much has changed in 140 years, from the shape of the ball to the addition of referees and a standard set of rules. And of course there’s tailgating. It has evolved from a simple picnic to an epicurean feast. On game days throughout the country, stadium parking lots are bustling with loyal fans and enthusiastic chefs.

With spectacular weather and colorful foliage, fall is Vermont’s season to shine. It is a perfect time to bring your family and friends together to watch your favorite team and enjoy a delicious tailgate feast.


Hearty Black Bean Soup

There is nothing like piping hot soup on a crisp fall day.

Serves 8–12

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp minced jalapeño peppers, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp dried chipotle chili pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 – 1-1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2–3 qt chicken stock (more or less depending on how thick you want your soup)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped (or 1 tsp dry)
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dry)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • Garnish: chopped cilantro
1. Heat a little olive oil in a soup kettle; add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, celery, carrot, and jalapeño pepper. Sprinkle with pepper flakes, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

2. Add the beans, tomatoes, chicken, chicken stock, wine, sage, thyme, and bay leaf to the soup pot; bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or the chicken is cooked through.

3. Remove the chicken from the pot. When it has cooled enough to handle, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken and corn to the soup. Cook for about 10 minutes, sprinkle with chopped cilantro, and serve.


Make this flavorful soup the day before the game to let the flavors mix and mingle; cool to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator. Reheat and pack in large, wide-mouth thermal containers.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Gorgonzola & Caramelized Onions & Peppers Bruschetta

You can grill the steak, onions, peppers, and bread at the stadium or at home. Either way you are in for a delicious treat.

Serve 8

  • 3 lb skirt steak
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz Gorgonzola, at room temperature
  • 4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 16 baguette slices
1. Cut the steak into manageable pieces. Place the skirt steak in a large, heavy-duty plastic sealable bag. In a small bowl, whisk together the wine, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, shallots, herbs, salt, and black pepper. Add the marinade to the skirt steak; seal the bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate the beef in the refrigerator for a few hours or up to overnight, turning occasionally.

2. Crumble the Gorgonzola into a small bowl; add the cream cheese and combine. Reserve.

3. Preheat grill to high. Set a grill basket on the grill to heat up.

4. Toss the peppers and onions in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cook in a grill basket for about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Remove from the heat and reserve.

5. Remove the beef from the marinade. Grill the skirt steak for 2 to 4 minutes on each side depending on how you like your steak. Remove from the heat and let the meat rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

6. While the skirt steak is resting, grill the bread on both sides until lightly golden brown.

7. Thinly slice the skirt steak on the diagonal. Spread Gorgonzola on the toasted bread, and top with thin strips of steak and caramelized onions and peppers.


If you don’t want to lug a grill around, prepare everything through step 6 and assemble the bruschetta at the stadium.

Triple Threat Brownies

These brownies are incredibly decadent. Cut them into small, one- or two-bite squares. Enjoy!

Makes 48 or more brownies

  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup chocolate syrup
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp instant espresso coffee powder
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk or white chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9x13-inch pan.

2. Melt the chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and add the butter. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add the chocolate syrup and whisk to combine.

3. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the vanilla, espresso, and eggs. Mix thoroughly.

4. Whisk the sugar, salt, and flour together into a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture. Blend thoroughly. Add the milk or white chocolate chips and stir to combine.

5. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake at 350° until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan; cut and serve.

What to Bring?

There is nothing worse than arriving at the game only to realize that you forgot to bring a carving knife, cups, or the mustard!

  • The Food & Drinks!
  • Plus, don’t forget:
  • Salt and pepper
  • Salad dressing
  • Condiments, which change with your menu: ketchup, mustard, pickles . . .
  • Water
  • Ice
For the Chef:
  • Grill
  • Charcoal and charcoal starter
  • Lighter or matches
  • Grill brush
  • Grill basket
  • Long-handled tongs, fork, spatula, and spoon
  • Cutting board and carving knife
  • 2 to 3 dishcloths
For the Table:
  • Serving platters and bowls
  • Serving spoons, forks, and knives or spreaders
  • Forks, knives, spoons, and napkins
  • Plates and cups plus, depending on your menu, bowls and mugs
For Cleanup:
  • Garbage bags
  • Storage containers and bags
  • Wet wipes
Susan Nye is a freelance writer and lives in New Hampshire. You can find more of her work and many of her favorite recipes on her blog at and online at

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