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The Art of the Tailgate

Last night, at the last real Boston College home football game (because that Thanksgiving game doesn’t count), with a hot dog in one hand and buffalo dip in the other, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad at the fact that I would have to wait another year to do it all over again. Tailgating is nothing short of an art form. There’s the tents, the decor, the ambiance, the music, but most importantly, there’s the food. 

Something about the crisp fall air, the maroon and gold all around, the fireworks coming out of Alumni during kickoff, it’s a feeling you can’t replicate with anything else. And while football is all well and good, for me, the real event is off the field and in the parking lots. The food is what makes my game days. If you are unfamiliar with the joys of tailgating and the art of trying as many foods as possible before kickoff, consider this a guide to your perfect college tailgating experience. 

To start, the tailgate is going to differ depending on the time of day the game is. Morning and night games each come with their own different menus. During the day, when the game starts at noon and you’ve hit the lots by 9am, it can be hard to swallow a hot dog or a burger upon just waking up. But as you walk around, you’ll see parents with tables lined with mimosas, breakfast sandwiches, fruit bowls and baked goods of all kinds. Breakfast items as far as the eye can see. My personal favorites are an egg and cheese on a biscuit or a cheese danish. There’s more than enough to fill up your empty stomach before you stand out in the beating sun for the rest of the afternoon. 

Night games are a different beast entirely. With more dinner items than breakfast, you’ll find seltzers and beers in maroon coolers next to cars. Tables will be decorated with red bandana tablecloths and adorned with hot dog bars (featuring toppings like chili or mac and cheese), buffalo and french onion dip, loaded nachos and cookies and cupcakes piled high on top of one another. There are grills sending smoke wafting into the air, BC flags flying high in the sky, and everyone is ready to eat up and get to the game. 

The buffet style of a tailgate means that you can’t help but try every little thing on the tables. Filling plates and napkins with pregame snacks and treats is one of the greatest weekend traditions. In fact, last night I asked a few of my fellow tailgaters what was their favorite thing to fill up a plate with at a tailgate. One said calzones, an interesting but entirely valid choice. Another said a classic hot dog, an essential you can never go wrong with. One said pigs in a blanket, and another said a big slice of cornbread. It’s clear to see the variety that a tailgate spread can encompass, and how no matter what choice you make, there is no wrong answer. 

There’s a certain energy at a tailgate, one of excitement, positivity, and community. It’s the ability to move along from tent to tent, regardless of if you know someone or not, and have someone extend to you a red solo cup or a chocolate chip cookie. Parents all around, asking you if you’ve had enough to eat, ready to fill your plate with a burger or veggies and hummus. It’s one giant family dinner (or breakfast) and it represents one of the greatest parts of food, the ability it has to bring us together. So no matter what team you’re rooting for, you’ll always have a full plate. 

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