After 40-some years on this planet, I’ve determined there are exactly two true tests of manliness.
The first is the westbound South Street entrance to the Schuylkill Expressway in a four-cylinder import with a barreling semi on your tail.
The other is the annual Super Bowl feast. Ten or 20 guys show up, and none of ’em have eaten, apparently, since Christmas. Worse, they’re all sober. They want food, they want beer, and they are in your face.
You can’t call your mate for help – she wouldn’t come within a half-mile of your bloodthirsty friends. Super Sunday is your responsibility and, believe me, real men do not eat Acme veggie trays.
I handled the first challenge by moving up to a 4.6-liter, 205 hp T-bird that does 0-60 in about 8 seconds.
As for the other, Joe Sixpack offers the same solution: bigger, faster and meaner.
Forget those lame-o theme parties. When your living room is full of salivating fullbacks, the last thing anyone wants is a Carvel ice cream cake shaped like a football. Cute recipes, like Touchdown Taters or Blitz Burgers, are losers, too, unless their main ingredient is Tabasco.
This is the NFL, fellas. It is a game in which 330-pound tackles can bench-press Dumpsters and beat a deer in a foot race.
So my Super Bowl feast is Super-Sized – a heaping helping of epic proportions. Sacks of chips, buckets of dip, gallons of beer and a sausage the size of a redwood. I’m looking for cold cuts on steroids and salsa with an attitude.
Finger food? Ha! Only if you’ve got fingers like Fred Flintstone.
In past years, I’ve run all over town picking up the supplies. The Italian Market for meats, Reading Terminal for shellfish, Ardmore Farmer’s Market for cheese. I’ve hiked out to Lancaster County for half a cow and a trunkful of potato chips.
But now I’ve found a place that gives me size and speed.
It’s BJ’s Warehouse Club, the one-stop supermarket for gluttons. I’ll admit, I sacrifice a bit on quality. There’s nothing like the Abruzzi at DiBruno’s on 9th Street or the Roquefort in Ardmore. But these warehouse clubs – whether it’s BJ’s or Sam’s or Costco, among others – offer a surprising variety of excellent groceries under one very large roof. And, you can pick up a nice, 36-inch color TV to boot.
But quantity with a capital Q is the key at a warehouse club.
It starts with a shopping cart that could hold a bathtub. I’ve witnessed small children crushed under the wheels of these carts, so lock them in the car and crack a window.
Shopping at BJ’s, after all, is a man’s job. Though women are perfectly suited for picking up a couple loaves of bread at Pathmark, the wide aisles of a warehouse club are best navigated by men of courage and stamina. Indeed, BJ’s is the only store I’ve visited where a man can confidently purchase Kotex without any threat of feeling thoroughly emasculated. Awe, not mockery, greets the man who can hoist a crate of 600 tampons.
We are here, however, for more urgent needs. We begin, as all Super Bowl parties must, with the potato chips.
Now, I tend to avoid the great debate over the subtle nuances that distinguish certain varieties: the greasiness of Wise’s, the saltiness of Herr’s, the crispiosity of Utz. And I can’t offer advice on the mess of artificial flavors – bay seasoning, sour cream and onion, barbecue and such.
For Joe Sixpack, there is only one thing that matters, and that is size.
At BJ’s, I head directly for the 20-ounce bag of Lay’s, known appropriately as the Super Size. A single bag contains no fewer than 1,800 fat calories. One of these babies provides a foundation for hour upon hour of football-watching. It should carry your event through most of the pre-game activities, and possibly to the coin flip.
But you’ll need variety. Nacho chips are preferred for salsa; pretzels are perfect for cheese-dipping. And grab a 50-ounce barrel of Cheez-it Blitz Mix – it’s like upscale Chex Mix.
Snack food is an important – possibly the most important – food group. But your party needs substance (also known as the meat), and it is here where a host faces his stiffest challenge.
Most meats, as we well know, cannot be cooked at this time of the year. Chicken, ribs, burgers – how do you grill ’em when your Weber is under six inches of snow?
Generations of men have stumbled on this dilemma. And for most of recorded history, nearly every member of the male species remarkably has answered the challenge by preparing precisely the same, utterly dependable dish.
At BJ’s, you could head for the Hormel. I believe they sell 40-gallon drums of the stuff in Aisle 24.
Or you can fry up a pallet of frozen ground beef.
Either way, I can almost guarantee that you will have about three months of leftovers at the end of the game.
Yeah, chili always sounds like a perfectly good idea at the time. Easy to make, easier to serve. But left in a crock pot for even a few minutes, it scabs over with an impenetrable crust of antediluvian muck. Not even your dog will take a sniff.
That’s the big reason I favor sausages.
Pepperoni, soppresata, bologna, salami – these are manly meats, and not just because they’re vaguely phallic. Spicy and full-flavored, they’re an ideal accompaniment for a keg of beer. Pre-cooked and preserved with a wealth of nitrites, they’ll last all afternoon on the Super Bowl buffet. Hell, they’ll last till baseball season.
And, above all, they’re bigger, faster and meaner.
Your local warehouse club carries a full complement of these fine party delicacies, all sold by the yard.
Don’t worry about how you’ll serve them. Real men – real Super Bowl fans – just gnaw.
WHAT’S ON TAP
For Super Bowl XXXV, Joe Sixpack will be experimenting with some actual indoor cooking. Here’s the menu; recipes follow. I picked up all the ingredients, except the fresh okra, at my local BJ’s.
* Chips and homemade salsa.
* Antipasta of cold cuts, kalamata olives and veggies.
* Gumbo (with jumbo shrimp, naturally).
* Bone-sucking chicken wings with my own hot sauce.