It’s Thanksgiving Day. A day for good food, good drink and spending time with family. My family today is the Philadelphia Eagles fan base as the Eagles play their first Thanksgiving football game since 1940. I’ll be honest, it is a very tempered crowd today. Hardly anyone was in the lot by the normal times. There were a bunch of saved parking spaces, but just as many empty ones, which is rarely the case a few hours into the tailgate, no matter what time the game starts. The combination of the holiday and the Eagles playing horrid football as of late quelled a normally fiery crowd.
But, hey, to hell with everyone else. We have a big day planned.
Jumping right to the Thanksgiving dinner was not an option today, so we heated up a few starters to warm us up. First on deck were a few Philly soft pretzels warmed on the grill. Following shortly after was kielbasa, shrimp and scallops, both wrapped in bacon with a creamy horseradish sauce, and a turkey braid. The turkey braid was turkey (obviously), stuffing, cheese and cranberry sauce wrapped up in a stromboli-like crust. Everything was excellent. Oh, I forgot about the hot dogs, both raw and cooked. What kind of tailgate would it be without hot dogs? With the first round down, it was time to concentrate on the turkey… and my very first attempt at deep-frying one.
I took a quick stroll around the parking lot to see how others were faring with their deep-fryers. I saw everything from shiny new set-ups (first-timers like me) to pots that looked like they survived a war. This didn’t look too hard. It’s time for me to give it a try. As I was filling our pot with oil, a big cloud of smoke rose amongst the cars within 100 yards away. Someone had dropped a still-frozen turkey into their fryer and the oil boiled over onto the burner. There is nothing flammable in a parking lot is there? Those guys didn’t panic, but ended up using a fire extinguisher on their dinner. Oh well, there was plenty of food in the parking lot to go around.
Our oil was ready so I plopped the turkey in and we were off! I was a little anxious early on and wasn’t taking the right safety precautions. We had welding gloves and a turkey hanger on-hand, but I used neither at first. I was parading the turkey around with my bare fingers through the eyelet hole in the turkey stand… then went right to the oil and lowered it in. Luckily there wasn’t enough boil-up in the oil to burn me, but from that point on we took all the necessary safety precautions to prevent us from scalding ourselves… or blowing up any vehicles.
As the turkey was cooking, we continued to nibble on the snacks and put away some beers. Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale was on the roster for the fourth straight tailgate… is there a more appropriate day to down a few of those than on Thanksgiving? Also making an appearance was a case of the Victory sample pack, including “Monkey Beer” (Golden Monkey Ale) which always makes a certain member of our group go a little batty. I don’t like calling anybody out in the tailgate blog, but his first initial is Dave. The rest of Victory beers were Victory Ale, Prima Pils and Hop Devil.
Accompanying the beer was blackberry bandy and some bubbly… both were kicked by the time the game started.
Ok, the moment had arrived. It was time to take the turkey out. Being the deep-frying virgin that I was, I was a bit nervous even though we had cooked the turkey for the recommended time and then some. We pulled that bitch out of the pot and I cut a little sliver off the breast… SUCCESS! It was everything I heard it was going to be. Time to carve this baby up and get started on the feast.
Accompanying the turkey, and warmed on the grill, were sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, cornbread muffins and dinner rolls. The cranberry sauce was out and being chilled by the late-November air. It was as great a feast as we had ever had in these parking lots. The meal, especially the turkey, received rave reviews from all attending. And to think… it wasn’t that long ago that we were grilling on a small 14” table-top charcoal grill. There was even a time when pre-made hoagies were brought to tailgate and simply washed down with loads of beer. Now, we have a smoker grill and a deep fryer and just sat down to a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. Hold on a second, I have to wipe this tear from my eye…
We have pumpkin and blueberry pie to warm on the grill, but everyone was stuffed beyond belief. It was time to break down the set-up and head into the game. We all congratulated each other on a great success and a marquee tailgating experience. Time to go watch the Eagles get their ass kicked.
Nobody was really expecting much of the game. The Eagles had played like hell in the previous weeks and the fan base had already reluctantly called it a season. After consecutive games of not knowing the overtime rules and then being benched for the first time in his career, the crowd, with fangs and claws already showing, was ready to pounce on Donovan McNabb at the first mistake he made. That mistake didn’t come too quickly as the Eagles rolled out to a 14-0 early lead and McNabb was perfect on the way to the endzone on his first drive. It took awhile, but Donovan did finally miss a receiver and the boos rang throughout the stadium… but by that time it was more a sarcastic jeering because he had played so well for the first time in so many weeks.
The game was a blast. The Eagles played a complete game on all sides of the ball for the first time since week 1, as they rolled on the Arizona Cardinals 48-20. The crowd started filtering out early in the second half since the game was in hand and it was getting late. As always, we stayed until the clock wound down to 0:00. It was time for some warm pies…
…or was it. Everyone was still full from the pre-game feast and there were no takers on pie. One of our faithful wasn’t quite done yet. Chalie still wanted some red meat, and he wanted it now. Instead of breaking out the smoker and lighting the charcoal for one person, I threw a cooking grate over the burner of the deep fryer and slapped a steak on there. Cooking directly over a gas flame is forbidden in this tailgate, but I made an exception… mostly because I feared what Chalie would do if he didn’t get some hot food into him.
We hung out for a little bit longer and called it a day. And what a great day it was. As I mentioned already, this one goes down as one of the all-time tailgates, if not the top one. It was right up there with past playoff pre-game celebrations. The quality of our team’s play was the cherry on top. Kudos to our entire party for making this such a great success.
Thanksgiving and the holidays… good times to be spent and celebrated with family. I wouldn’t consider our group anything less.