Tailgating Southern style
Spice up your fall pregame parties with some Deep South traditions
Because I was in Texas last fall, this is my first football season in more than a year in good ol’ Virginia. In my time away from the University, I learned a few things about football — and more importantly, about their tailgates.
Texas, Louisiana State University (LSU), Texas A&M and Alabama fans are of a totally different breed. They, along with other members of the Big 12 and the Southeastern Conference, take their football seriously. I’ve seen Virginia fans sulk after a potential big win turned sour, but it never felt like a riot might ensue. Being around hardcore LSU fans when a game doesn’t go their way is a different story.
But it’s not just the sport itself that the fans take more seriously than our Atlantic Coast Conference counterparts. Fans of the SEC and Big 12 conferences love to tailgate — and they raise the bar above simple burgers, chicken and hotdogs.
Football season has always been one of my favorite times of the year at the University. Unbridled — and perhaps unwarranted — enthusiasm for the new season brings people together in the ancient art of tailgating.
The smell of cigars, bourbon, beer and food stings the nostrils as you make your way from fraternity tailgates to the Lawn to the crowded parking lots around Scott Stadium.
Though different tailgates around Grounds range from fried chicken — be it Wayside, Raising Cane’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and even sometimes Popeye’s — to the occasional burgers and fries. But they don’t come close to the kind of sophistication we see at the tailgates of our SEC brethren.
Many fans of the Big 12 and SEC conference teams own professional smokers and smoke beef brisket, sausage, chicken and ribs. Many make gumbo, jambalaya and fancy appetizers.
One of my favorite starters I learned from a LSU fan with a long history of tailgating was called “Armadillo Poop.” Simply take a jalapeño and cut it into quarters. Then remove the seeds and fill each piece with bleu cheese. Finally, cover it with a thin layer of ground sausage. Just cook the treat over charcoal or gas and enjoy a nice piece of sausage with spicy yet gooey bleu cheese inside. It’s a classic LSU fan recipe that can heat up any tailgate.
Another idea to take away from these Deep South tailgate masters is smoking ribs on a charcoal grill. Simply place all your coals on one side with an aluminum pan on the other side. Then put another aluminum pan filled with water above the coals on the grill grate. The water helps keep the heat around 225 degrees Fahrenheit, and the aluminum tray creates indirect heat for your smoke chips to smoke the meat placed above the drip pan.
Apply a barbecue rub a few hours before smoking and cook for 90 minutes on one side, 90 minutes on the other, then an hour covered with aluminum foil and another hour uncovered. Follow this method and add wood chips to your fire every two hours, and you will have the most tender ribs at the tailgate. Just make sure the temperature is around 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit without touching the bone.
Charlottesville has a rich food history where delicious products have always been in good supply — but that tradition has yet to make it to our tailgating. If the team isn’t going to, at least something should be winning!