I discovered tailgating later in life than most.
I grew up in the heart of SEC football where bumper stickers stating "I bleed orange!" or "I cheer for Tennessee and whoever's playin' Bama!" are commonplace, but packing up the car to spend a day hanging out in the parking lot and going to a game wasn't an option for us. As long as I've been alive, my dad has always bought cattle at the market on Saturdays, and on "good" days when the cattle are cheap, he's likely hauling cattle until the wee hours of the next morning. I suppose that such a schedule never allowed for tailgating and football games.
When I left home for college, I chose a school without a particularly strong football program, so tailgating was not a part of my college life. I moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after college, and while I was surrounded by Alabama and Auburn fans, I still never managed to go to a single football game there.
Somehow, against all odds, I discovered tailgating and college football here in Miami.
We'd lived in Miami for just over a year when my husband proposed that we buy season tickets to the University of Miami Hurricane football games with our friends Jef & Anthony. We were still acclimating to the city and despite my lack of enthusiasm for football, it occurred to me that this could be a great way to meet new people. I agreed to the season tickets with an understanding that we would tailgate for some of the games, and that decision set us on a course for football Saturdays full of tailgating adventures.
I can't quite recall the details of us settling into a program of tailgates themed around the opposing teams, but somehow, that became our plan. Each week, one couple was responsible for food and the other for drinks and games. We agreed that the interpretation of the theme could be obvious or creative, and with that, we unlocked inspiration for some incredible dishes.
We've had moonshine cocktails and pulled pork hash for North Carolina games, homemade buckeye candies for Ohio games, alligator ribs for last year's Florida game, and even Chicken Curry with basmati rice for a Florida State game. Since embarking on this tailgating journey, we have discovered new ways to create meals over camp stoves, and we now know that most Publix stores sell dry ice, which means proper ice cubes for cocktails and homemade ice cream are options for any tailgate.