I’ve done some serious tailgating in my life, and gone to some pretty intricate sports-themed parties.
And there is one thing I’ve never understood: Why do people insist on putting out these spreads at Super Bowl parties where you really need to be sitting at a table, with eating utensils properly positioned, and a heavy-duty napkin, as if it’s a sit-down banquet.
Isn’t that counterintuitive? Doesn’t it miss the point? Isn’t the 50-inch LCD in the den, or at least, the living room? Isn’t that where you want to be?
Of course that’s where you want to be. This means rethinking the whole eating experience, and changing it to something that’s conducive to watching as you pound the food down.
This means no food that you have to cut with a knife. Better, there shouldn’t ever be a knife anywhere near people at a Super Bowl party, especially around here, as the Super Bowl has become the New England Invitational.
Why would you want a knife? Having one would make it so much easier to slit your wrists when your quarterback throws a key interception (a la Russell Wilson a few years ago); or when some jerk receiver who’d caught about six passes in his career balances one off his helmet as he’s driven to the ground. Had I not been at that game, where such implements were not available, I’d have been tempted to stab myself and everyone else over that play.
There’s plenty of food you can eat simply with a fork, or your fingers. Remember, the objective is to gather around the television set like monkeys around a monolith (Google it). We’re there to watch a game. Or, in some cases, watch over-produced commercials that end up being the topic of conversation at work the next day (a day when nothing productive gets accomplished anywhere).
Don’t misunderstand. We go to these communal gatherings for many reasons. One is to watch the game together, cheer together, cry together, stamp your feet together, swear together … you know. But we’re also there to eat together too. But just not anything overly elaborate.
Remember, we’re all sitting on couches or chairs, balancing plates of food on our laps. Since nobody I know has enough dishes to accommodate the crowds of people who cram into houses for the Super Bowl party, we’re using plastic plates, plastic dinnerware, paper cups, and little, skimpy paper napkins.
You cannot complicate these proceedings with food that needs to be cut up to be eaten. No roasts. No sliced turkey. I went one year and someone served ham. Beyond the fact that I just don’t care for ham, the other problem with it was that the ham was thick, and dry, and by the time I got through cutting it up, all the rest of the food on the plate, and the mustard I’d put on the ham, was on the rug.
That didn’t go over well with the host, let me tell you!
You know what the perfect Super Bowl party meal is? Macaroni and cheese. You can slop it onto a plate, and eat a relatively uncomplicated meal. Sandwiches are good, especially if you use smaller rolls to make them so that they’re not unwieldy. Finger sandwiches or sliders are ideal. No muss. No fuss.
If you’re looking for something a bit more creative, lasagna is excellent because it’s soft enough to be cut with a fork. Spaghetti is not good because you need to be doing too many things at once to eat it, and it has great floor/rug/furniture potential, especially if it’s accompanied by a thick sauce. It finds the rug, or the couch, or the nice sweater you wore to the party, every time.
On the other hand, meatballs work for the same reason lasagna does: you don’t need a knife to cut it, and therefore your plate won’t be bouncing around as you try to eat it. But that’s only as long as they’re not too big. Otherwise, they weigh the paper plate down and the imbalance can — you guessed it — be brutal on the furniture or the rug. Or you.
Chinese food is very popular at gatherings such as these, and that makes a lot of sense. Either you can eat it with just a fork, or you can eat it with your fingers (provided those handi-wipes are within reach afterward so you don’t get your greasy fingers on the furniture as you hoist yourself up off the couch to go wash up). Those chop suey sandwiches they serve at Salem Willows would be ideal.
So, to sum up, remember, we’re there to socialize and watch a football game (or commercials). This is not the time to get too fancy, and not a time to serve a meal that might be better presented at a state dinner.
Mac and cheese. Can’t beat it.