Georgia Bulldog football means a lot of things to a lot of people. Silver britches. North Campus. Property damage on Jekyll Island. Friends, family, and heroes who have graced the field before you.
There’s also the food. SEC football without tailgating is like a play action Z post to the endzone without a backside seam route. Yeah. It’s that important.
But what is THE tailgate food? The one must-have pregame snack for a successful Bulldog tailgate. Well, I’ve had some time to ponder this and I have a few ideas.
Fried chicken. A classic. Hot, cold, covered in maple syrup or plain or dunked in ketchup. Doesn’t matter. I’m confident that 97.8% of UGA tailgates I’ve attended over the course of my fandom have involved some sort of fried chicken.
Of late that chicken has often taken the form of the ubiquitous Chik-Fil-A nugget tray. Every UGA tailgate of any size involves a Chik-Fil-A nugget tray. Often the tray seems to have appeared sua sponte. No one knows who brought it. It’s just there.
The nugget tray is right up there with penicillin among modern inventions. It retains the succulent flavor of deep fried chicken, while also solving one of the major problems of traditional fried chicken (a handful of greasy chicken bones).
But I’m also a fan of your more traditional fricassees. I’m a wing man myself, but a perfectly cooked fried chicken thigh is a taste sensation as well. Really if it used to cluck and you’ve breaded it and plunged it into boiling vegetable oil, I’m a fan.
Barbecue. Those who’ve spent any time around this site know I’m a pretty big barbecue fan. Pulled pork. Ribs. Brisket. It’s all deadly.
And there are few things better than the sweet, smoky flavor of juicy ‘que while surrounded by your fellow ‘Dawgs. Well-executed tailgate barbecue is tough to beat.
If there’s a drawback to barbecue as a tailgate food it is the execution. Proper barbecue requires hours, if not days, of preparation and execution. You can set up a charcoal grill and turn out great burgers and hot dogs in under an hour. That’s about how long it takes to start a good hickory or pecan-coal fire to begin slow-smoking ribs, shoulders, and other porcine and bovine delectables.
You can always just buy it from the pros at Holcomb’s or Butt Hutt. But you have to time it right, and for early kickoffs that’s a pain. They may be smoking it at 8:00 am when you roll through but they’re not selling it at that time.
Boiled peanuts. Criminally underrated tailgate fare. If there’s something better than hot boiled peanuts and a cold beer on a warm October Saturday in Athens I don’t know what it is. I’ve been buying mine on the way to and from Athens from the same guys boiling goobers in the same pot in the same parking lot in Shady Dale since at least 1999. Good Lord willing, I’ll be doing the same for years to come.
Desserts. From salty to sweet. Everybody loves a good dessert table. Cakes, cookies, pies. All good. No one ever has enough room for them but everyone samples just a little of the brownies. It would be just rude not to.
In the dessert category I’m a huge cookie fan. Tons of variety. Infinitely portable. Nearly impossible to screw up. I’ve been known to drop an oatmeal raisin cookie in my shirt pocket before heading to the stadium for halftime sustenance, and I don’t care if Greg McGarity and the Virgin Mary both know it.
Family traditions. Most tailgates have one signature item prepared by a longtime participant. It’s weird. And also delicious. I once tailgated with some folks who served a tossed salad with crumbled cool ranch Doritos instead of traditional croutons. Not my thing. That’s why I only had two helpings. There was also the lady with the Clinch County Bulldog Club (the closest thing to professional tailgaters I’ve ever seen) who took great pride in her macaroni salad. I have no idea what was in it, other than pasta and mayonnaise. I suspect celery, maybe water chestnut. But it was fantastic. I have dreams about that macaroni salad.
The family recipe is always a little unexpected, and always full of character. So trust me, when you’re visiting pregame and someone tells you to try Aunt Myrtle’s famous kumquat salad, eat the damn salad. You won’t regret it.
Feel free to weigh in among these choices, or submit your own, in the comments. And...