What foods are most closely associated with specific sporting events?

Wimbledon started this week and while it’s not an event I typically follow closely, even I know that the item that everyone eats at Wimbledon is a cup of strawberries with fresh cream drizzled over the top. That got me thinking. What are the foods that are most closely associated with specific sporting events. I don’t mean in a generic hot dogs-and-baseball kind of way, but instead, when you think of certain sporting events, are there some foods so closely associated with them that they come to mind almost as soon you hear the event’s name? After a bit of thought, here are a few that I came up with.

Pimento Cheese Sandwich – The Masters. This was one of the first ones that actually came to mind. The Masters is famous for its concessions stands’ throwback prices (few items cost over $5) and the pimento cheese sandwich is its most famous sandwich. In fact, during the 2011 Masters,  a power outage at the catering facility mean that the club ran out of pimento cheese sandwiches, creating what was described as a “panic” from the spectators aghast at not being able to get the iconic sandwich. Augusta National keeps its recipe a secret, but a quick Google search reveals plenty of folks trying to replicate the sandwich’s appeal. For those not from the South, according to NPR, pimento cheese is made of sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos and some simple seasoning, such as salt and pepper. Variations can also include the addition of onions, cream cheese, garlic or monterey jack cheese.

Mint Julep – The Kentucky Derby. This one seemed obvious. From the second the Derby broadcast starts on NBC, they start talking to and about all the well-dressed people drinking mint juleps in the grandstands. The Derby itself has perpetuated the connection as well, by officially promoting the drink since 1938. According to Churchill Downs, 120,000 juleps are served at Churchill Downs over the two day period of the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby. Starting in 2006, the track has also served a special $1,000 super-premium julep featuring gold-plated cups with silver straws, and using Woodford Reserve bourbon, mint imported from Ireland, spring water ice cubes from the Bavarian Alps, and sugar from Australia. About the only good thing I can say about that over-the-top monstrosity  is that at least some of the proceeds went to charity.

Strawberries and Cream – Wimbledon. As I said before, it was this item that got me starting thinking about this piece.  The New York Times did a good little history of the connection between Strawberries and Cream a few years back, and unlike many food/sports traditions whose origins get lost to time, Wimbledon is quite certain how this tradition started.

The tradition actually dates from around the time of the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877, according to Audrey Snell, a librarian at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. Strawberries and tennis, she said, both signaled the arrival of summer.

“Strawberries were normally available only at that time of year,” said Ms. Snell. “When the championships started in the late 1800’s, it was a fashionable thing to eat. The appearance of strawberries just happened to coincide with the event.”

Of all the foods I thought of, this one is by far the simplest. But leave it to the folks at the All-England Club to have exact Strawberries and Cream “specs.”

The official Wimbledon strawberry is the Elsanta variety, grown at farms in Kent. Picked the day before, they arrive at the championships at 5:30 a.m. for inspection and hulling. They are accompanied by double cream, which contains at least 48 percent butterfat.

Wimbledon doesn’t do simple, simply.

Grand Marnier Crepes – The 24 Hours of Le Mans. I’ll grant you that this one is slightly obscure, but leave it to the French organizers of this great motor race to have quite possibly the best food on this list. Ask any visitor to Le Mans, these are the item to get. According an Audi enthusiast site, “While you can’t take this home with you to remember your time at Le Mans, this is a track tradition that shouldn’t be missed. These thin crepes are filled with sugar and soaked in Grand Marnier. The mixture of sweetness with the sharp tang of alcohol is enough to soften the hard edges of even the toughest of race fans. ”  I remember reading about these in the pages of Road & Track back when I was a little kid. As I plan my first trip to Le Mans in a next year or two, these crepes will surely be enjoyed at last.

What other foods am I missing? Let me know in the comments.

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Categories: Food, Food at Sporting Events

3 Comments on “What foods are most closely associated with specific sporting events?”

  1. Danielle
    June 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Opening myself up to abuse but, since when is that news? Generically, I associate NASCAR with giant roasted turkey legs. More specifically, Martinsville Speedway is all about the red hot dogs [http://www.nascar.com/2009/news/features/03/24/five.things.martinsville.speedway.hot.dog/index.html]

  2. June 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Who said that it’s news? It’s just something I thought was worthy of starting a conversation about.

  3. Amy
    May 21, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Thank you for such an interesting and in-depth post! I am doing an Anthropology in Sport class at college at the moment – this week we are exploring traditions regarding food and cuisine for spectators of particular sports, so I found your article very insightful and helpful! 🙂

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