With the completion of the AFC and NFC Championships, Super Bowl XLVIII will soon be upon us, along with its super-sized spread of snacks, which forms an American meal as iconic as Thanksgiving. Just as there are “authentic” and “traditional” dishes that accompany our national holiday dedicated to gratitude and family, unspoken rules guide which foods pair perfectly with America’s favorite sport. Two recent TV commercials make this point abundantly clear.
While much of the recent campaign for Chevrolet’s Silverado has emphasized strength, hard work, and individualism, the new “Wheatgrass” commercial instead cuts to the heart of tailgating—the food. As a gleaming white truck pulls up with a behemoth barbecue in tow, a male voiceover recites a poem-like ode to simple and straightforward masculinity, football, and the food that ought to accompany them:
A man and his truck.
And tofu, and veggie burgers, and raw kale salads.
As these vegetable-based options are relegated to eternal football damnation—perhaps considered too feminine or too outrightly healthy to suit the character of the day—men and women alike chow down on hunks of meat of every size, shape, and sauce, each expertly prepared by the truck-driving master chef who wears his full beard, plaid shirt, and carnivorous appetite with pride.
While Chevrolet clearly aligns football food with masculine meat rather than feminine veggies (a stance that incited a slew of angry pro-vegetarian comments on the video’s now defunct YouTube page), this commercial also expresses a degree of class-based resistance against foods considered too healthy, too fancy, and too inauthentic for football.
The Huffington Post took the same angle in the article, “11 Foods that Don’t Belong Anywhere Near a Super Bowl Party,” a list that includes kale chips, fancy cheese, and quinoa. Article author, Rebecca Orchant, elaborates the list with comments such as,
Chips are a requirement. Kale is exactly the opposite.
This day is not a day for salads.
Tiny, fancy foods are for other parties. This party is for big, messy, overblown foods.
This sentiment is also echoed in a DIRECTV commercial from last year. In this ad, Peyton Manning and Deion Sanders appear as tiny, winged, football fairies in a man’s refrigerator as they attempt to persuade him to purchase DIRECTV’s Sunday Ticket.
Incredulous, Sanders berates the potential customer saying, “You’ve got prime rib, but you don’t have NFL Sunday Ticket?” The confused customer stutters that despite the expensive steak in his fridge, he doesn’t think he can afford this football expense. The football fairies continue their food-based pitch, as Manning assures him with comedic sarcasm, “It’ll be tasty. Kind of like tapenade and football…together.” Just as tofu and kale are too highbrow for football, so is tapenade, although Manning does palm an olive in his tiny fairy hand like a football ready to be thrown.
So there you have it: the food rules of football. Anything served up at a tailgate party or before a big screen TV must be considered as simple, honest, and true as the sport itself. Nothing perceived as pretentious is allowed. Healthy options don’t find themselves in a prominent place. Meat, and the raw masculinity it connotes, is king.