September 29, 2023


Welcome to the Food

Big Game recipes: Casual isn’t a must on Super Bowl Sunday


I have a friend who wondered – on Facebook, the only place for modern contemplation – whether food can be too fancy for the Super Bowl.

Actually, what she said was this: “If I were writing features, I’d write a cooking story on whether football food (specifically Super Bowl food) can be too fancy.”

Naturally, I took that as a direct challenge, while also appreciating her correct use of the subjunctive mood with the word “were.”

A football-shaped bacon mound. (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

At the time she posted it, she still had a dog in the fight — her favorite team is the Buffalo Bills, who made it to the AFC championship. My favorite team is the Cincinnati Bengals, so not only do I not have a dog in the fight, my dog ran away and got hit by a bus early in the season.

What precipitated her question, apparently, was an offer from the subscription food delivery service Blue Apron. For $99.99, the company will ship all the fixings for a Super Bowl party for six.

Included are what you need to make smoked gouda and chicken flatbread with pancetta and hot honey; seared flank steak lettuce cups with pickled peppers and garlic dressing; creamy pesto and spinach dip with toasted pita chips; and pork chorizo quesadillas with cilantro sour cream.

Also included are four beer glasses – they call them “chalices,” which may be technically correct but seems a little pretentious — advertising Stella Artois beer. And yes, that’s four glasses for a party of six, but chalices ain’t cheap.

My friend wrote that, to her mind, some food can indeed be too fancy for football. Specifically, she wrote, “I am looking at Blue Apron’s recipes for football food, and I think they are too highfalutin.”

I disagree.

Obviously, food can be too casual for an elegant occasion. You wouldn’t want to serve cocktail wieners at a coronation or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at a state dinner, although I always appreciate a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

But fancy food at a casual gathering? I’m OK with that.

Take, for example, the Super Bowl party (assuming there will be a time when we can once again gather together at social occasions). If you were watching two teams engage in a titanic struggle on the gridiron, would you really object to being served thin slices of beef wellington? Would you turn up your nose at lobster thermidor?

I wouldn’t. I would savor every bite, profusely thanking the host for going to such extraordinary effort to make me and my fellow guests feel pampered.

I would feel similarly grateful if offered seared flank steak lettuce cups or pesto and spinach dip with toasted pita chips, or the rest of the Blue Apron menu. The extra effort, the extra care – even the extra expense – is the point.

Chili, buffalo wings and bean dip are Super Bowl staples, and I certainly enjoy them when they are served with a football game. Also: without a football game. But that does not mean I cannot also appreciate football food that is, as my friend puts it, more highfalutin.

Which brings me to the Stella Artois part of her post.

She and her non-me friends agreed that Stella Artois is the wrong beer to serve with football. One even went so far as to call it “EuroBud,” which I think is both hilarious and also, to some degree, accurate — it is brewed by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

I personally think Stella is a pretty good beer, but that’s not the point. The point is, why should we restrict ourselves to American lagers when watching football? Why not drink what we like to drink?

The same beer snobs who are sneering at me right now for thinking that Stella is a pretty good beer will be the first ones to reach for a CBD-infused fermented spelt beer from a remote village in eastern Bulgaria while watching the game. And there is nothing wrong with that, if that is what they like.

Fans of Guinness should drink Guinness. Fans of Bud should drink Bud. Fans of Pearl beer should seek help.

Fortunately, Pearl is only available in Texas, as far as I know. People there use it to water their lawns, though it usually does more harm than good.

What I am trying to say is, a Super Bowl party is a social event. There is nothing wrong with serving good food at any social event. There is certainly nothing wrong with serving chili. Your guests won’t mind either way. They’ll be happy to see you and to watch the game with your friends.

But if you serve seared tenderloin with a ruby port demiglace, they’ll be happy even if their team gets demolished.