This weekend is working out to be a tailgating wonderland. With highs forecast to be in the mid-80s and clear skies, it's busy times for lawn chairs, grills and coolers. Travel trailers for the A&M and Arkansas game began arriving Thursday night. Collins and Interstate 30 in Arlington will serve as a giant revolving door for caravans of fans that won't end until Sunday evening when they shut the lights out at Cowboys Stadium.
For the past couple of years, I've had the "job" of perusing the parking lots and meeting people who I feature in articles about tailgating. In all this time, my jealousy of these raucous crews only grows. I've noticed how much time and money is invested (more of the latter). No doubt about it, it's a lifestyle. And if you think it's an insignificant waste, I'd argue you're wrong. Often families are creating or carrying on decades-long traditions. And as for many friends, it's the only time they ever see each other.
Which is why a when a memo circulated my way earlier in the week about "tailgating insider tips" from a hotel restaurant, I was highly annoyed. You're kidding me, right? In a bullet pointed list, they suggested you consider parking strategically under a tree or in the grass, stay hydrated, be green and "battle the bugs" by hanging sandwich bags filled with water from your "tent."
Then, they added recipes from their executive chef which were just adorable. And it all irritated me.
Because if there's one sacred place where the everyday fan stakes their claim over food, it's tailgating -- just like last week when I wrote about Hans Yoo and his sidewalk paella, where he had everything he needed in one brown paper bag cooking over a single-gas flame. It was brilliant. Or last year I talked to a guy who grilled "Old Man's Face," which was a recipe passed down from Sicilian grandparents. While countless others make asado and smoke ribs, most of the time, though, it's just hot dogs and burgers on a grill. With a cold beer in hand, that's nothing short of weekend football bliss.
But last Monday when I was walking through the parking lots before the Cowboys game against the Redskins, I saw a black SUV pulling a fancy trailer with the name of an affluent local chef splashed all over it. (No, I don't want name names because I didn't ever actually see what they were doing, so I can't indict him for lack of hard evidence.)
I was immediately annoyed by the grandiosity and marketing of it though. His professional kitchen on wheels slowly glided by, all while guys dangling their feet off the tailgates of their pick ups, eating hot dogs and drinking Bud Light in cans, watched him pass.
I did, however, try to give this chef the benefit of the doubt and called his restaurant to get the low-down on his tailgating festivities. I was wondering if they did keg stands or preferred funnels. Well, I got redirected to a corporate office. I left a message, but never heard back, so called again and spoke with two different people who told me to email them and they would then forward my inquiry to the PR person who would get back to me.
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That's not tailgating.
I realize there's an enormous amount of marketing tied to every aspect of sports, including tailgating now. I'm fine with that. But, if you're going to pull up in a parking lot on game day, sit in a chair, eat a brat and drink a beer with the five thousand other people around you.
Because tailgating is the common man's foodie turf.