Real sugar may just be the most underrated player of any great pre-game get-together. No matter how your team does, you can count on sugar for a winning tailgate party for fans of all ages.

Watching football has been a cherished American pastime since Rutgers and Princeton faced off in the first college football game in the fall of 1869. Whether you’re rallying for a beloved high school, college, or NFL team, no game day is truly complete without a spirited tailgate party among family and friends. And at the heart of any exceptional game day gathering is the unsung hero – real sugar. It plays a pivotal role in shaping the flavor and experience of many popular tailgate foods.

Tailgating’s Origins

The roots of tailgating can be traced back to 1866 when Texas rancher Charles Goodnight addressed the cowboys’ need for a mobile chow hall by ingeniously converting a U.S. Army Studebaker wagon into the first chuck wagon. This design, simple yet enduring, closely mirrored those used by modern tailgaters, as highlighted in American Heritage magazine. Post-World War II, the rising popularity of station wagons gave a name and platform to the burgeoning practice of tailgating. By the 1980s and 90s, tailgate parties had evolved into a social movement, fueled by the portability of gas grills and the addition of wheels to coolers.

Embarking on a tour of American tailgates reveals a delightful spectrum of dishes, from classic BBQ to Alaskan candied salmon to Midwest kuchen–even ice cream and cheese sourced from the on-campus herd of over 200 Holstein cows at Penn State University.

Most Underrated Ingredient

Real sugar may just be the most underrated player of any great pre-game get-together. The significance of real sugar deserves an honorable mention when it comes to the creation of crowd-pleasing hamburgers, hotdogs, and sloppy joes, staples that enjoy popularity across the nation. Barbecue sauce, known for its harmonious blend of flavors, shares a common thread – real sugar – in each regional recipe. Brown sugar, with its delicate balance of heat and acidity, not only enhances flavor but adds a delightful stickiness that ensures the sauce adheres perfectly to meat while providing the necessary texture to prevent it from becoming too runny.

football fans tailgating and having fun before the game with condiments made from real sugar

America’s favorite sauce, ketchup, has a history dating back to 1812. The addition of sugar elevates its flavor, enhances mouthfeel, and contributes to its consistency, ensuring a longer shelf life and facilitating smooth pourability for bottling and serving–meaning you can buy the biggest bottle and use it all season!

Moving beyond the main course, side dishes play a crucial role in a winning tailgate menu. Sugar emerges as the master balancer, harmonizing tartness and saltiness in coleslaw, while adding structure and texture to casseroles and baked goods. It also plays a vital role in the soft structure of baked goods by interacting with starch gels and gluten networks, ensuring the perfect balance of elasticity.

Turning to the beverage selection, beers and cocktails, the ideal companions to a tailgate feast, owe their existence to sugar. In the brewing process, sugars extracted from barley or malt kickstart the yeast, transforming them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. In cocktails, sugar acts as a binding agent, weaving together disparate flavors into a harmonious whole, enhancing texture, accentuating the weight and body of spirits, and mitigating tartness.

No memorable meal is complete without a delectable dessert, and ice cream consistently tops the list. Real sugar doesn’t just add sweetness, body, and softness; it also regulates the formation of ice during freezing. This ensures that ice cream remains soft enough to scoop and eat, with the necessary thickness and stability to withstand the inevitable heat shock from frequent trips in and out of freezers.

Sugar is the Winning Ingredient

Whether you’re introducing new dishes or savoring old favorites, real sugar is the secret ingredient for a triumphant lineup on game day. Regardless of your team’s performance, sugar guarantees a winning tailgate party or pre-game get-together that transcends age and fandom.

Laura Rutherford

About the Author

Laura Rutherford graduated from the University of North Dakota in 2004 with a degree in Political Science. She is a shareholder in American Crystal Sugar Company and a member of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association (RRVSGA), the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers (WABCG), and the American Society of Sugarbeet Technologists. She is on the Board of Directors of the Sugar Industry Biotechnology Council and has published articles for the WABCG, the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association newsletter, and the British Sugarbeet Review magazine in Cambs, United Kingdom.

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