It’s the first game of the football season for the University of Michigan, and thousands of food-and-drink loving Wolverine fans were camped outside the Big House for some tailgate eats.
Michigan was playing University of Connecticut. There was a carnival-like atmosphere at the Pioneer High School parking lot, where clusters of fans sat around tents, tables were full of food and all types of BBQ grills could be seen. Tailgaters seemed to be a good-natured, generous group. They freely offer both food and drink to any passerby who takes an interest in their cooking. The crowd is a sea of the maize-and-blue colors of University of Michigan. Many are playing a popular tailgate beanbag toss game. This game can be played with one hand to free up the other for a drink or a hotdog, making it an ideal tailgater activity. Grills were sizzling with the classic picnic/tailgate fair of burgers and hotdogs.
But tailgate food isn’t just burgers and dogs. A closer look shows more ambitious offerings. Justin, a season ticket holder, said he likes to eat well at the games.
“I made a New York strip steak with a Jack Daniel’s marinade, baked potatoes and I am grilling some asparagus,” said Justin. Further down the tent row was Esteban, manning a large maize and blue-painted, dual-compartment grill. One side was full of a dozen pieces of grilling chicken, and on the other side was a large tin of macaroni and cheese.
There were other items on the table next to the grill, like grilled ham steaks topped with pineapple rings. Further down the lawn manning another grill was a self-professed Notre Dame fan.
He was sporting a Notre Dame foldout chair, and noticeably was one of the only people in the crowd not wearing the ubiquitous maize-and-blue colors. He joked about his covert team loyalty amongst Wolverine fans while flipping burgers. His group of fellow tailgaters prepared homemade peanut butter cookies to accompany their grilled fair.
Away from the crowds of the Pioneer High School on neighboring side streets were smaller, intimate gatherings. Many area residents located near the stadium sold parking and space in their yards for football goers.
About three blocks from the stadium, UM alumni Steve and Linda Hasting and Tim and Sharon Sherrow set out a cart table and chairs where they enjoyed their own tailgate food. On the table were Scotch eggs, which are hard-boiled eggs that are wrapped in sausage and breadcrumbs and baked. There was also a fresh fruit salad, and dish Linda called “Michigan Caviar.”
Michigan caviar is a sweet bean and corn relish that is served with corn chips. They drank red wine that Steve said his son made. Also on the tables was a tray of miniature, fresh-baked muffins. The house they set up in front of belongs to their friend, who gives them access to a full kitchen and not just a BBQ grill. This explained all of the fresh-baked items like the muffins and scotch eggs.
The crowd thinned out the further away one gets from the stadium. Eventually, all tailgate parties gave way to neighborhoods with empty lawns. A lone boy sat in front of his house at a table selling lemonade and cookies hoping to attract some business from the handful of foot traffic to the game. Walk a few more blocks away from Michigan Stadium, and all signs of a football game that hosted 109,000 people are gone.
Justin’s inspired strip steak with Jack Daniels marinade
2 thick New York strip steaks
1 bottle of Italian dressing (not creamy Italian)
¼ cup of Jack Daniel’s whiskey
Combine the salad dressing and whiskey. Pour over steaks in a glass pan, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 2-12 hours. Take out the steaks of the refrigerator and let them sit for about an hour to take the chill off. Heat a BBQ grill to high. Scrape off the excess marinade and place the steaks on the grill. Discard the marinade. Grill on high for eight minutes per side. Tent loosely with foil. Let the steaks rest for at least 15 minutes. Serve with a baked potato and grilled asparagus.
6 hard-boiled eggs, shells removed
1 pound of ground sausage
Bread crumbs to coat
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover the eggs with a half-inch layer of the ground sausage. Coat the sausage-covered eggs with bread crumbs. Bake on a broiler pan for 40 minutes. Cut into quarter wedges and serve with Dijon mustard.
Can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Can of black eye peas, rinsed and drained
1 cup of white corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 small red onion, small dice
1 small red pepper, small dice
4 scallions, chopped fine
½ cup of white sugar
¼ cup of cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of salad oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients. Serve with corn-chip scoops.
Esteban’s inspired grilled chicken
2 pounds of chicken thighs, skin on
½ cup sour cream
1 cup cream
1 tablespoon of your favorite McCormick-brand seasoning (lemon pepper, mesquite, etc.)
Put the chicken in a glass pan. Combine the sour cream, cream and spice mix. Cover the chicken, wrap the container in plastic and refrigerate overnight. At the game, heat the grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and grill for 8-10 minutes on both sides or until done.