I must confess, I’ve never been to a tailgating party. My parents weren’t big football enthusiasts and my college was too tiny to warrant a football team. I could never understand those devotees who donned painted faces and wore cheese blocks on their heads. I never felt pressure to purchase a foam finger or swig beer from a giant keg, but over the years I have come to appreciate the spectacle of Super Bowl Sunday and this year promises to be a real doozy.
The developing controversy over “Deflategate” has definitely upped the ante and has everyone clinging to the edge of their seats. Regardless of whether you support the Patriots or Seahawks, are an avid aficionado of the advertisements or are tuning in at halftime just to catch a glimpse of Katy Perry, the common denominator joining everyone together is the time-honored tradition of Super Bowl fare. And, most notorious are the tailgating fans who descend on stadium parking lots to feast and drink ’til their hearts are content. Rather than go rogue, tailgate like a pro with these 10 surefire etiquette tips.
1. Adhere to tailgating policies
Read parking lot restriction rules and tailgate only in authorized areas. Keep equipment including tents, grills, canopies and chairs directly in front of or behind your vehicle. Review rules on alcoholic beverages and glass containers, as well as grilling guidelines.
2. Plan your menu accordingly
Tailgating policies will dictate how much prep work and cooking should be done in advance. Have ample supplies on hand from coolers and cooking tools to zip-top baggies and bottle openers. Condiments, spices, ice and water are also crucial necessities. Don’t forget your food thermometer to ensure protein is cooked thoroughly. You may need a flashlight for finding foods in the dark once the sun goes down.
3. Enlighten game day fare
Add a little consciousness to your tried and true standbys by serving grass-fed burgers, no-hormone hot dogs and organic chicken breasts. Tear kale into that potato salad, remove the mayo from the coleslaw and substitute maple syrup in those baked beans. Offer sweet potato chips and protein-rich quinoa brownies for dessert. You will not only be just as satisfied, you’ll avoid that sick-to-your stomach feeling at the end of the day.
4. Don’t monopolize the parking space
Don’t be a ninny and hog two parking spaces to accommodate your one-space car. Don’t park on grass or other landscaped areas. Never park on the sidewalk or in a handicap space. Keep travel lanes clear for emergencies.
5. Create a neighborhood vibe
Tailgating is one of the few pastimes that taps into that nostalgic, neighborly feeling. Your door is always open. Someone’s low on sugar for their dry rub? No problem, you have plenty! Need a touch of Sriracha for your steak? Here, borrow mine!
6. Mix and mingle like a maven
Stroll the length of the stadium, smile and introduce yourself. Compliment fellow chefs on their chosen fare and invite them to taste your cuisine. Engage them in light conversation and never disparage their team.
7. Be gracious, not greedy
Politely take part in the sampling of foods by accepting what is offered to you and graciously reciprocating in return. If they grace your plate with gourmet pulled pork? Return the gesture with a sample of your famous lamb stew. Offered a bit of imported beer? Send down a sip of your finest pinot.
8. Pump down the volume
Music plays a big part in tailgating. Just make sure yours does not offend. You may love Mötley Crüe, but your neighbor despises it. Be mindful of those around you and keep the blaring to a minimum unless you are certain everyone within earshot will be joining you on the asphalt dance floor.
9. Let there be games
Lawn games, drinking games and NFL trivia games help to pass the time and provide great entertainment. Practice good sportsmanship, always play fair and set a positive example for younger tailgaters.
10. Leave no trace behind
Gather all of your belongings, scour the area for trash and deposit waste in bags or bins. Recycle wherever possible. Load the car and leave the tailgating space just as clean (or cleaner) than the way you found it.