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~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: Take a Trip Back Twenty-Five Years in PSU Tailgating Time, Part 1: The Business of Tailgating ~

Scan Yes, 'tis true:  This coming Saturday at Noon, when the pigskin gets kicked-off in Beaver Stadium, we Penn State fans will embark on our 125th year of true-blue temporary insanity.  For those of us who live right here in Happy Valley, or within a couple miles of the actual crime scene, we can report there is no exaggeration regarding the electricity that is in the air just before each and every game!

I've lived here since 1974 or for 36 years.  Back then, I was young bride of 19 and after moving into our apartment (the day after our wedding on August 31st), I immediately started planning our first tailgate and never looked back.  A lot has happened over the past 36 years of my life, but tailgate has always been there, each and every year, like sand through the friggin' hour glass of life, gently reminding me:  it's time to par-tay!

Having been a foodie for the same number of years, no matter how you add this up, it is a lot of tailgates.  (I'm bragging a bit, but if there were actual money in tailgate planning, I'd have enough bucks to pay for some decent housing facilities in Paternoville.)  And, once again this year, in true tailgate tradition, just the other night, while sitting in the hot tub with my husband Joe, I say, "hummmm, it's time to decide what I'm serving for Saturday's tailgate... got any suggestions honey?"  He answered, "look in that tailgate book of yours."  He was referring to my stack of tailgate notebooks where I keep menus, lists, contact numbers, etc.  He went on to tell me to specifically look in my tailgate notebook from 1986, which is a compilation of tailgate newsletters I "published" for and sent to our tailgate group 25 years ago for Penn State's 100th "Century of Excellence" football season!  

WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!  Where were you 25 years ago?  Do you remember what you ate at tailgate even last year?  Well, neither do I, but I have proof positive of what our tailgate group feasted on for this memorable National Championship season because I took the time to write all of the menus down... and they are prehistoric-looking my friends, meaning:  precomputer. Using just a typewriter and a copy machine, I sent these out on a weekly basis to the members of our group!

So, for each home game this year, I am going to post one of these newsletters and chat with you about what was going on in our Penn State minds way back when.  The following day, (on Fridays) I'll do a blog post about the dish that stole the show on that particular menu.  Today, in Part 1 of this series, I'm going to share with you what tailgating for tailgaters who reside here in Happy Valley is like. Without further adieu:

Part 1:  The Business of Tailgating

1986 Tailgate Page 1 In 1986 we just knew a National Championship was at hand.  Don't ask me how we knew, we just did. We finished the season at 11-0 the previous year with a heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.  Joe and I were there, with seats directly in front of the Oklahoma band.  That's all I have to say about that!

That being said, almost our entire team was back in '86. From the moment our RV parked in its spot directly across from the stadium, we could feel the ground underneath it swaying from the swagger of the fans... fans just like Joe, me and everyone else in our RV that morning!

Our core group of four women had met early in August to plan our menus.  Carol, Jean, Joan and myself came up with themes, combed through our recipe files and whatever cookbooks we had on our shelves... there was no internet or Food Network back then.  We took into consideration each persons skill level and time constraints before assigning the dish they were were expected to make that week.  To avoid traffic and waiting lines in local restaurants, our group ambitiously planned to serve brunch prior to each game and dinner afterward!

ScanOnce the recipes were chosen, I put them in the newsletter, cutting and pasting them the old-fashioned way. Each team member checked their snail-mail on Monday AM to receive their assigned recipe(s) and instructions for the upcoming week's game!

Each of our ten core couples did their part too. We all annually contributed a flat dollar amount. A portion paid for the inspection of and gas for Duane's RV, which he drove in from Harrisburg for each home game.  The rest of the money was used to buy paper products, cleaning supplies and LOTS of ice on an as-needed basis.  All of this organization and "high finance" was indeed necessary.  On a weekly basis, our core group of ten couples all had company/guests coming into town for the weekend and our tailgate almost always fed 50-60+ people.  On the Saturday of each home game at Beaver Stadium, we were are own little blue & white lovin', self-sustaining community!

Scan 1 Each person made their recipe in a quantity necessary/appropriate to feed that weeks crowd, and it was noted on the newsletter in what quantity we expected it.  The cost of food for these satellite dishes was that person's/couple's weekly donation.  I usually made the main course (because I was the one who owned giant pots and chafing dishes), but even if I did not, whoever made the main course kept their grocery receipt and got reimbursed for the cost of the food. So, for example, if I made lasagna to feed 60 and my ingredients cost $200.00, Stan, our tailgate's toastmaster and Grand Poobah took a headcount and divided $200.00 by 60, which equals less than $3.50 per person.  Gourmet fare so inexpensive even McD's couldn't compete with our tailgate!

Scan 2 Now if this is starting to sound like a dictatorship you've got it all wrong. There was a lot of freedom. Everyone was free to swap out with anyone else for any reason at all. That being said, we had a couple of women who loved to bake and requested to be on dessert duty every week... a service of self-expression which was yummily appreciated by all of us!

"Back in 1986 we were all in it to win it... and so we did!" ~Mel.

I hope you've enjoyed reading Part 1 of this five-part series.  You can look for Part 2 next Thursday, but until then, look for my next Kitchen Encounter's blog post when I'll be posting the crowd-pleasing winning recipe from our above 1986 Hawaiian tailgate menu!


"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


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