Tailgating season is off to a terrific start in Oklahoma, with temperatures warm and summerlike for the first few football games already in the record books.
For dedicated tailgaters who pull out all the stops each game day with elaborate spreads, menus early in the season tend to center on hearty portions of meats — either grilled or barbecued — or sandwiches, totable salads such as potato salad, quick munchies, and plenty of beer and soft drinks.
As the football season progresses, tailgate menus will likely evolve to reflect the chilly fall weather, with heartier portions of meats, more casseroles and homemade chili, soups and stews.
But tailgating isn't just about the food. As Stephen Linn writes in "The FOX Sports Tailgating Handbook: the Gear, the Food, the Stadiums” (Globe Pequot, $16.95), "Tailgating is a part of our social fabric. For many of us, our tailgate neighborhoods are as important to us as the neighborhoods we live in. And we often like our tailgate neighbors better. It is an activity that brings communities together behind a common goal — beat your opponent. In NFL parking lots you find high-dollar CEOs sharing ribs with construction workers. College tailgates find students and alumni filling each other's glasses. You're not going to find them doing that anywhere else. There is a communal passion among tailgaters. It's hard to explain to people who haven't experienced it, but once you've tailgated you tend to want to go back again. And again.”
As the tailgating season continues, some new menu additions just might be in order for the lineup of eats. The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association recently conducted a national poll among outdoor cooks and discovered many were game to try traditional indoor recipes for outdoor get-togethers such as tailgating. Specifically, of those polled, 58 percent said they would be likely to prepare brisket, duck or lamb, while 58 percent said they would prepare fruits and vegetables such as squash, cranberries, pumpkin seeds or sweet potatoes. Forty-eight percent said they'd be willing to try making desserts such as cobblers, crisps, s'mores and kettle corn outdoors, while 37 percent said casseroles might be on their grilling agenda.
"Cooks are more adventuresome about what they'll try,” said outdoor cooking expert and cookbook author Cheryl Jamison, a former Oklahoma resident. "Fish, shellfish and even fruits are popping up on the grill — all over the world,” she said. Jamison and her husband, Bill, who've written an impressive number of books on outdoor cooking, have created recipes for outdoor fall cooking for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, including one for Grilled Vegetable Orzo.