By Tiesha Miller. Reprinted with permission from 417 Magazine.
If you’re serious business about it, Football Saturday starts at 6 a.m. Well, if you’re really serious about it, it starts on Thursday when you put the rub on the ribs and start the brisket on its 5-hour, 250-degree stay in your oven. All the same, if you’re in the clan of University of Missouri law school graduates that tailgates for each of its alma mater’s home football games, you’re going to get to Columbia the day before and begin setting up shop pretty early on Saturday.
David Ansley, Abe Paul and Rod Loomer are in this lawyerly group that has made tailgating an art. Their model for a successful tailgate is based on decades of trial and error, but really, you need one main component: Excess. Lots of food, beer, seating and game-time spirit.
Their game plan works no matter which team you root for.
‘The best tip I have is to associate with a rabid fan who loves to cook and loves to party, which I have done with my good friend Abe Paul,’ Ansley says. ‘He’s the glue that keeps it all together. He loves his Mizzou Tigers, and he’s a darn good cook.’
Loomer sounds equally hands-off: ‘I’d have to answer the question â€˜How to Tailgate’ with the answer â€˜Mooch off friends,’’ Loomer jokes. ‘Actually, I give my friends money every year to defray the cost of the food and then bring plenty of adult grain beverages.’
It’s a Team Effort
The truth is, each pitches in to varying degrees, be it by providing funds, bringing side items and treats, stocking the full bar or all of the above. The food at their tailgate is nothing short of a feast: three slabs of ribs, brats, pulled pork, 4 to 5 pounds of brisket, homemade macaroni, marinated chicken thighs, sweet and sour slaw, cookies, brownies, a full bar and much more. If it’s a morning game, omelets could be involved.
On particularly cold game days, it’s common to have chili. ‘People aren’t going to come to our tailgate just for a salad,’ Ansley says. ‘They want some hearty nourishment, something that’s going to go with a cold beer. There always seems to be enough refreshment to go around. When they have the 11 a.m. games, bloody mary’s are essential.’
This group might be more practiced than your usual bunch, but these guys really seem to be on trend with where the tailgating world has been gravitating. ‘From what I’m seeing and reading, everything is going more gourmet when it comes to tailgating,’ says the group’s head chef Ryan Tiller. ‘You can’t go wrong with a simple burger, but people are throwing in anything you can put on a grill—stuffed peppers, stuffed jalapeÃ±os, stuffed pork loin. It’s all still on the grill, everything seems to go back to the proverbial grill, but everything they’re putting on the grill seems to be more gourmet, bigger and better.’
Foods Come Out in Courses
It’s not unusual for the group to have around 50 people to feed at the tailgate, which means there has to be plenty of food for everyone. Paul cooks the chicken and marinates brats in beer on-site, but nearly everything else is prepared on Thursday and packed into coolers on Friday. There’s also a strategy to feeding the crew. Paul doesn’t put everything out at once. He does the food in three rounds: pre-game, halftime and post-game. ‘You have to kind of marshal things out,’ Paul says. ‘It’s a pretty elaborate series of things. We’ll slum a little bit and do hamburgers and hot dogs for the first round.’ After that, out come the dips and then the ribs and so on.
Their ritual is to get up at 6 a.m. on Saturday and leave a car or two in their standard spot in lot J by the Willie Smith Tree (named after a former Mizzou basketball star) near the stadium. Then, they head to HyVee, where they get the fresh-made flavored bratwurst (jalapeÃ±o, cheese, onion). Then it’s back to the field where they watch the Marching Mizzou band rehearse at dawn. After that, it’s time to head back to the tailgate spot to set up. A friend in Columbia keeps all of the logistical supplies, including two gas grills, two pop-up tents and Rubbermaid tubs filled with salt and pepper shakers, knives, tongs, table cloths and all the things they need. When the weather is still nice, they’ll stop by the Columbia farmers’ market and get fresh flowers to put out on their tables.
Others who join bring items of contribution. Some people have regular items they bring and others have been delegated the week before. ‘You can’t be bashful about divvying up responsibility, either,’ Ansley says. ‘It sounds mundane, but someone has to bring buns, and if you’re going to feed 50 people, who’s going to bring what is important.’ After it’s all arranged, it’s just set up, eat, drink and root for your team.