Tailgating at sporting events is often a raucous blend of debauchery and team chest pounding. They range from family traditions to college frat parties. At best they are a creatively executed parking lot picnic; at worst they resemble obnoxious bachelor parties. Or is that the other way around? In any case, the basic ingredients are grilled food, cold beverages and adrenalin. Especially with football, there are tailgate specialties and traditions that are intrinsic to home teams (think Packers and beer brats), and California is no different. Our grilling traditions tend to blend the sweet and spicy, tropical and smoky. Because we are so incredibly fortunate to enjoy year-round outdoor barbecues, we practice all year for the big games, and have tailgating down to a culinary science. Some people even make a life out of touring the seasonal events. A good tailgate host plans for both a pre and post event party, and is able to pace the rate of alcohol consumption to result in a fun time that doesn’t end in the stadium jail for anyone.
Barbecuing arose from different needs around the world but the common threads were of necessity: Smoking was the technique used to preserve slaughtered meat, and slow cooking tough meats was the best way to feed ranch hands on a budget. Despite the easier times, the caballeros here are no strangers to using the time-honored Tex-Mex and southwestern cooking methods, but truly take California grilling to a whole new art form. Outdoor barbecues are ubiquitous throughout the state, from family backyard affairs to large-scale cook-offs. Because the climate allows for year-round tailgating, picnicking, and poolside parties, the grill skills residing here in the Golden State are a fundamental necessity for living in our outdoor cooking culture.
In case anyone is wondering where to find all our cowboys, California is rich with farms and ranches, especially in the central valley, which runs from the San Joaquin to the Sacramento Valleys. Imperial Valley, located in the southeast corner of California also has its share of cattle, chicken and horse ranches, dairy, fruit and vegetable farms. Home-grown ranchers and immigrant farmhands together produce eight percent of the nation’s food supply. Ideal for growing crops year-round the climate is hot and sections of the valley prone to flooding. And after a hard day working outdoors, you can bet these folks are hungry, thirsty, and ready to let loose.