Talking tailgate


A pretzel and cheese football makes a great tailgate appetizer, especially when it's flavored with Worcestershire, sharp cheddar and Dijon mustard rub. The mini football sliders in the photo are meatballs in French roll pockets.

A pretzel and cheese football makes a great tailgate appetizer, especially when it's flavored with Worcestershire, sharp cheddar and Dijon mustard rub. The mini football sliders in the photo are meatballs in French roll pockets. Photo by:


Launch Photo Gallery


Mississippi (State) Sin Dip can include ham and green onion, or customize it with other favorite ingredients.

Mississippi (State) Sin Dip can include ham and green onion, or customize it with other favorite ingredients.
Photo by:



Jan Swoope



There was, no doubt, a time when tailgating meant showing up before the game with a sandwich and six-pack, but oh, how things have changed. Thousands of Bulldog fans proved that again Saturday in The Junction as Mississippi State opened its season at home with a win.  


The entertainment and feeding of ourselves pre-game has evolved into a grand social experience.  


"We wouldn't miss tailgating," said Amy Skinner who lives near Starkville. "It adds so much to game day. It's so much fun to decorate the tables and tents, to share the food, to see people we haven't seen since last season. The excitement, the great eating, the anticipation -- oh, no, we wouldn't dare miss it."  


For all the stalwarts out there who plan, purchase, pack, haul, set up, cook and clean up, we thank you. Football season means big-time effort, so it seems timely to share a few compiled tips today that will hopefully prove useful. (Many work for picnics and camping, too.) 


First and foremost, as any seasoned tailgater knows, it's imperative to check out fan guidelines and regulations for the specific university beforehand. No point in loading down the SUV only to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and turned away. 




Be ready for anything 


I found this humorous, from "Roughly 96 percent of tailgate problems can be solved with duct tape, hand sanitizer and a permanent marker." That's a little tongue-in-cheek, yes, but it has a point.  


Other basics for the checklist, from include wet wipes, trash bags (more than you think you need), paper towels, dish soap, a large plastic tub for dirty dishes, first aid kit, rain ponchos, plastic tarps, plastic zip bags, blankets, mini flashlights, bungee cords and masking tape for labeling food containers and coolers. 


More than one tailgating website recommends having a multi-compartment toolbox filled with essentials like tongs (two: one for raw meat, one for cooked meat), lighters, spatulas, bottle openers, wooden skewers, basting brushes, mosquito spray, can opener and nonperishable condiments and seasonings. 


If using a grill, bring a metal bucket for still-glowing coals and make sure the grill is extinguished properly. (Bill Darnell of Caledonia can tell a tale of a post-tailgate vehicle fire, courtesy of a still-hot grill.) 


Bring multiple coolers. One should be designated specifically for meats. Label all coolers clearly, not only so guests can readily find drinks, but you don't want them constantly opening the meat cooler looking for beverages and raising the temp on the food. 




Around the tent 


You can't have enough bungee cords, reminds us. Use four to attach a box fan in the top of tent for better air movement. Use short ones attached to tent struts to handily hold rolls of paper towels.  


You can fashion a hand-washing station out of a large empty laundry detergent container, the kind with a spigot.  


Keep beverages bug- and debris-free by turning a cupcake liner upside down over the drink; shove a straw through it, and you've got a lid. 


For grillmasters, a tip from recommends throwing some sage or rosemary on the charcoal to act as a natural mosquito repellent.  




Spud footballs 


Below are a few recipes for consideration. And here's an easy idea from food blogger Jim Higley ( for dressing up potato bar spuds as mini footballs. You can prepare all the toppings -- like bacon, sour cream, diced tomatoes, grated cheese -- ahead of time and put them in easy-to-transport containers. (You can keep baked potatoes wrapped in foil warm in a designated cooler, even using foil-wrapped hot bricks in the bottom of the cooler. You can use the bricks as warmers under hot dishes at the tailgate, too.)  


Before serving the potatoes, cut thin football "laces" (strips) out of slices of mozzarella cheese, about 1/4-inch wide. Each potato will need one longer center lace and four shorter ones. Put them on hot baked potatoes, where they'll melt a little for a great pigskin effect. 


The SEC is open for business. Tailgate, have fun, mix and mingle, be generous. 


Oh, and never forget to pack the jumper cables. 








16 ounces sour cream 


8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 


2 cups sharp cheddar cheese  


1/2 cup ham, chopped 


1/4 cup green onion, sliced 


Hot sauce, to taste 


1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 


1/4 teaspoon black pepper 


Loaf French bread, unsliced 




  • Preheat oven to 350 F.  


  • Cut a thin, about 1-inch thick, oval slice off the top of the loaf of French bread, leaving a couple inches perimeter. Set top side. Remove most of the soft part of the bread, leaving a sturdy portion on sides and bottom. Save the soft bread to use later with dip, if desired. 


  • Mix first 8 ingredients together in a medium bowl until well combined. Pour mixture into hollowed bread bowl. Place top back on loaf. 


  • Wrap enter loaf in a double thickness of heavy duty aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Serve with reserved bread or crackers.  










    16 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese 


    8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese 


    1 1/2 cups Duke's mayonnaise 


    8 ounces sliced pimentos, drained 


    2 tablespoons sugar 


    1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 


    1/2 teaspoon black pepper 


    1/4 teaspoon paprika 


    A good quality white sandwich bread 






    Bacon strips, cooked 




  • Shred half of the Monterrey Jack cheese to regular shred. Shred the other half to fine shreds. This creates a creamier texture to the pimento cheese spread. 


  • Shred the cheddar cheese to regular shred size. 


  • Combine the cheeses with the mayo, pimentos, sugar, Worcestershire, pepper and paprika. Combine very well. 


  • For each sandwich, toast two pieces of white bread. Spread a thick layer of pimento cheese spread onto the bottom piece. Top with two strips of bacon, lettuce and tomato. 


  • Slice into halves diagonally, or quarters for serving a crowd. 








    Makes about 30 servings 




    2 green onions, chopped 


    2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened 


    1 8-ounce package shredded sharp cheddar cheese 


    1/2 cup mayonnaise 


    3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard Rub 


    1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 


    1 cup pretzel twists 


    1 stick (about 1 ounce) string cheese 




  • In a batter bowl, mix green onions, cream cheese, cheddar, mayonnaise, rub and Worcestershire sauce until well blended. Refrigerate, covered, 2 hours or until firm.  


  • Process pretzels in a manual food processor until coarsely chopped.  


  • Form cheese mixture into football shape on a platter; coat with pretzel crumbs. Cut string cheese in half lengthwise. Cut one of the halves into thirds crosswise. Arrange cheese on football to look like laces. Press down into cream cheese mixture. Serve with crackers and additional pretzels.  




  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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