Classic Cheese Spread
Refrigerated, this spread keeps well for several days. Serve with crackers or crisp apple and pear slices, dipped first in lemon juice, pineapple juice, Sprite, or 7Up to prevent browning.
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 jar dried beef, sliced into small pieces
1/2 small can chopped black olives (about 2 ounces), drained
half bunch green onions, thinly sliced
chopped pecans, minced parsley, or paprika
Combine all ingredient except pecans, parsley, or paprika. Mix well, cover, and chill for several hours or overnight. Shape into a ball, log, or even a football shape if you’re really into the game.
Coat with chopped pecans, parsley, paprika, or a combination of all three.
Southeastern Conference football is steeped in tradition: boisterous cheers, annual campus pilgrimages, the pageantry of Homecoming, and hyped-up ESPN coverage.
I remember as a child traveling to Starkville to watch the Mississippi State Bulldogs play. The air seemed electric and it was so exciting Lan and I could hardly contain ourselves. The feeling was contagious, I think. My mother was a majorette at State and loves being there so much she can hardly stand it, either.
The campus seemed full of good-natured people ready to have a good time and the marching band warming up somewhere in the distance added to the invigorating feel in the air. And if it was Homecoming, big sandwich board signs lined the way to the Union, urging students to vote for this candidate for Homecoming court. Girls were dressed up and wore corsages and all in all, it just seemed like a wonderful place to be. I decided right then and there that this college business was going to be fun.
When I think of those game days, the sun was always brightly shining, the sky always crisp and blue with a sharp sweet taste of fall in the air, and the Bulldogs always won. Obviously, the golden patina of time has made my memory quite selective.
The next time you go to a college football game, try to get there early in time to watch the tailgaters set up. It’s fun to watch different families pull up and get out their supplies. For some it’s intricate and elaborate, and I do mean elaborate – linen tablecloths, crystal pitchers, candelabras, floral arrangements, and a lavish spread of gourmet food. Others go to the opposite extreme – a red and white checked oilcloth tablecloth, a bucket of fried chicken, and a cooler of canned soft drinks. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of tailgaters fall somewhere in between, although the school colors are almost always seen at every spot in some form or another – from disposable napkins to pompons to other color-coordinated accessories.
For some families, tailgating is a big tradition that dictates certain foods be served. The menu almost becomes a good luck charm for the game.
At many schools, the social aspect of tailgating is as big a reason for attending as the game itself. Often, the grassy areas are still filled with fans -- visiting, chatting, and exchanging stories -- long after the game has begun.
Whether you’re driving to your alma mater or watching the game on TV, this is a great spread to snack on.
Excerpted from Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern