Ciao'd after making a batch of guac.
I’m pretty much halfway through my life and I can say without hesitation that one of my greatest accomplishments thus far is learning the art of watching football. Natch, it comes second to the triumphs that are my sons and my marriage but not by that much. It was a hard labor, the football thing.
I grew up in a family of five women (four daughters and my mom) with a dad who was not interested in sports except for the occasional foray to the University of Connecticut to watch the women’s basketball team play. I suspect the game was more a speed bump in a social outing that included dinner before the game and drinks afterward. I also grew up before Title Nine. Cheerleading was my sport of choice if you define sport as speed and agility when applying mascara and twirling a curling iron.
I went to my first NFL game when I was in college. My boyfriend, Ed, took me to his hometown of Buffalo where we ate real, honest-to-God fiery chicken wings with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing at the Anchor Bar (inventor of said wings), and attended a Bills game at what was then called Rich Stadium. It was snowing cats and dogs and maybe chickens, too. We sat in the Rich box which was fine by me not only for the weather protection but also for the lavish pours of Labatt’s and Genesee. Knowing what I know now, I realize that I did not attend that game as in authentically attend the game. Like their Green Bay brethren (shout out to Josh Ehren!), Bills fans will tell you that you don’t graduate from spectator to fan until you’ve weathered the elements in the actual weather. Face paint optional.
Now I live an inside-out life from my childhood. I am the only female in a family that includes six males (3 humans and three dogs). Even our canary was male (RIP). While I while away the first half of the year cheering tennis matches as the players serve and volley their way across the globe, the second half of the year is firmly, resolutely and unreservedly devoted to football. College on Saturdays and NFL on Sundays. Back in the day, I could have resorted to reading in a quiet part of the house. Instead, I found myself inexplicably drawn to the game. It was a mind-bend to understand the rules, but it was the language that blew my mind. Football, it turns out, is the perfect mix of manliness and metaphor.
A few of my favorites: Baby got back in football. Quarterback, halfback, running back, cornerback, as well as patting fellow players’ backsides (I don’t know. I don’t ask). Blitz as in “rush the quarterback” and blitzed from all the beer. Rush as in run like hell with the ball and sprint to get more beer during the commercial break. Hail Mary as in the last-second desperation pass, not to mention the prayer you will be muttering if it’s your team who's passing. Sack dance as in a player’s celebration after taking down the quarterback that also alludes to the sack I want to wear when I am feeling as fat as the guy who brought the quarterback down (feeling fat the consequence of drinking beer). Monday Morning quarterback as in get up super early to watch ESPN so I can speak with authority about things I don’t actually know.
Football and I were drafted by the same team. The game brings out the best of my more pronounced characteristics even though they may not represent me at my best. I am really good at screaming. I am super-opinionated and I believe deeply in my opinions (Why wouldn’t I? I’m right.). I know what I know even when I don’t, and I have no qualms about screaming it (there’s the screaming again) to the ref through my TV screen. I am really good at eating and drinking and, as we all know, there is no football without food and drink.
Speaking of which, how about a super bowl of Italian pulled pork? Or a pile of it on a soft bun (think: King's Hawaiian)? Make the pork on Saturday and let it braise while you watch the college games and then eat it when you watch the NFL games on Sunday.
P.S. Because I know you were asking yourself this question while you blitzed through this post, I will answer it for you. For what team does she root? “Oh my God, really? The only team. The New York Giants. The G-Men. Eli!” But I always loved the Broncos, too. Peyton and I join each other in our bathrobes every Sunday. As for college, I am partial to UCLA, but this is based primarily on my fantasy to rock as a Bru-babe. Lee Corso and the mascot head can sway me on any given Saturday. Regardless of the side I sit on, when it comes to football, SHE COULD GO ALL THE WAY! Ba ba Ba, Da-daaaaa, Da Da Da Da Da.
ITALIAN PULLED PORK
This aromatic pork, redolent with rosemary, sage, fennel, parsley, and garlic, owes its deliciousness to leisurely cooking and layered flavors, beginning with soffrito, a slow-cooked mix of chopped onion, celery, carrots.
2 ½ pounds pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 ½ cups dry white wine
Season pork with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven large enough to hold the pork, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the pork fat side down and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, celery, carrot, and fennel seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to prevent the onion from burning. Add the rosemary, sage, and parsley, and cook 5 minutes more.
Add the balsamic vinegar and cook, scraping up any browned bits, 1 minute. Increase the heat to high, add the wine and cook 5 minutes more.
Return the pork to the pot along with any accumulated juice. Transfer to oven and braise, covered, basting every hour or so, until the meat is very tender and shred easily with a fork, about 4 hours.
Remove pork from the Dutch oven and, using 2 forks, shred the meat. Serve pork on buns with coleslaw.