The offseason continues to trudge slowly forward, like an offensive lineman making his way toward an 8:00 am intro to water ballet class.
We can’t make football season get here any faster. But we can help you pass the time with Free Form Friday, our periodic pre-weekend endeavor into (at best) sports-adjacent territory. Maestro, the soundtrack:
Nothing says college football like tailgating. And few places tailgate like Athens. From whole hog barbecue to fried chicken to crab legs, with an assortment of sides, desserts and beverages, Georgia fans traditionally turn the Classic City into not only a party, but a culinary exposition.
Everyone has their favorite tailgate fare. As anyone who’s read this site for very long knows, I love pork barbecue in most any form more than anyone or anything I’m not actually claiming on my taxes or to whom I’m otherwise related. I’ll take some Brunswick stew with it if you’re offering.
But today’s topic of conversation isn’t favorite tailgate foods. It is this: what is the most underrated tailgate food? The food that may not draw “oohs” and “aahs” and respectful applause when you pull up with it. But the food that does the most for the money. The under -appreciated MVP of the tailgate tent.
For my money, it has to be the Chick-Fil-A nugget tray. I haven’t documented my findings, but I’m reasonably sure that 96% of Georgia Bulldog tailgates have a nugget tray of some size onsite. Some groups assign someone to bring the nugget tray. Sometimes the damn thing just shows up out of thin air like a weird trifle at the Hogwarts dining hall. But it’s there, and it’s there for you.
Deep fried, pickle-brined chunks of chicken breast are awesome. This much is self-evident and if you don’t understand that I can’t help you figure it out. I’m not going to spend time making that argument. Take it as a given.
But the Chick-Fil-A nugget tray is clutch for other reasons. For one, it’s easy. I know, you want to take pride in your tailgate spread and it’s important that people understand the great lengths and expense you went to so that everyone would leave for Sanford Stadium full and happy.
But Truett Cathy opened the Dwarf House so that you could enjoy good food with minimal effort and instead focus on what’s important: the people around you. So honor his legacy by instead investing all of 15 minutes in ordering through the app and picking up at any one of 34 million Chick-Fil-A locations between your house and Milledge Avenue. Use that additional time on a really obscene dessert.
Second, like Visa, they’re universally accepted. Except for your vegan niece (who probably goes to Emory anyway, seriously, what is up with her?) everyone eats them, even people who know they probably shouldn’t for health or religious reasons. I am very suspicious of anyone who doesn’t take a Chick-Fil-A nugget when offered. They’re like people who don’t like dogs, only worse.
Third, nuggets are versatile. You can pile ten nuggets on your plate and eat them with sides as an honest meal. You can pop them one at a time while drinking a beer and watching Tennessee lose a Jefferson-Pilot special before the real games start. You can toss a few in your pocket and eat them on your way to the stadium and into the first quarter (yeah, like you haven’t at least considered it).
They’re just as good cold when you return to the tailgate, assuming there are any left, as they were fresh. Chick-Fil-A nuggets are there when you need them and how you need them, with no questions asked and no expectation of anything in return. Name one other relationship in your life you can say that about.
So how about you? What is the salad, sandwich, spritzer or snack that you believe doesn’t get enough credit ‘round the tailgate tent? Until later...