Who cooked up the idea of tailgating?

Friday, October 7, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 40

Well, it is the football time of year, which includes tailgating, outdoor parties around a fire, big-screen TVs and traveling to your team’s home field. This doesn’t go on just for the college and professional crowd. High school football is just as important, and requires the entire family’s participation!

Many, many years ago, my husband played high school football in Little Rock. This was before I met him, but it never fails that whenever we happen to be out and run in to someone that was in his class, the old line, “I remember when you made that winning touchdown that won us the state championship.”

From all the saved newspaper articles passed down to me from his mother – along with letter jackets, sweaters and other memorabilia – I’d say he was one heck of a player!

Here’s a question for you. Do you know when tailgating made its first debut? Some say that the very first college football game between Rutgers and Princeton back in 1869 served as the very first tailgating experience. Back then, spectators traveled to the game by horse-drawn carriages, and spent the time before kickoff grilling sausages and burgers at the “tail end” of the horse. (Hopefully, that one isn’t real!)

Others suggest it began at Yale in 1904 when a locomotive made up of private railcars transported a hoard of fans to a football game. When that train stopped at the station, a fair distance from the stadium, the fans were starving, so the idea was to bring along food before the start of the next game.

Still others claim that tailgating started in Green Bay, Wis., around 1919, when the three-time Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers were first formed. Wisconsin farmers would back their pickup trucks around the edge of the open football field, open their tailgates to sit on and graze from a picnic basket of food as they watched “The Pack” play.

I don’t know which version to believe, or it any are true. You can decide on your own. But I do have a good recipe for you, and it is good even if you aren’t tailgating!

Cheez-it Mac & Cheese

1 tablespoon butter

2 1/2 cups Cheez-It snack crackers

1/2 cup freshly grated

Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

1 cup half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

3 cups dry elbow macaroni

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Gruyère cheese

In a large, non-stick skillet melt one tablespoon butter. Stir in CHEEZ-IT crackers and Parmesan cheese. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for six to seven minutes or until crispy and lightly browned. Remove from heat. Set aside.

In large saucepan, melt the 1/4 cup butter. Stir in flour. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat about five minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; gradually whisk in milk and half-and-half. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture simmers and slightly thickens. Stir in salt, mustard, thyme, and red pepper. Reduce heat to low. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well. Remove milk mixture from heat. Add cheddar cheese and Gruyère cheese, a little at a time, stirring until melted after each addition. (If necessary, return saucepan to very low heat.) Cook and stir until cheese melts. Fold in macaroni. Ladle into serving bowls. Sprinkle cracker mixture on top.