One of the ironies of watching sport is that it usually involves eating and drinking things that could ruin an athletic career. Cheering on chiselled men and women as they run around for our amusement for some reason becomes even more enjoyable when it’s accompanied by fistfuls of fried goodies.
Though Game Day dishes have a proud tradition all over the world, there are some that deserve their own special pedestal. To help celebrate both the return of sport to our screens, as well as our own delicious selection of sporting delicacies from the upcoming Twisted: A Cookbook (now available to preorder for the 3rd of September), we’ve scoured the globe for some of the finest examples of matchday feasting. Next time someone offers you a bowl of wings before the big game, think again. These are seven of the ultimate Game Day dishes from around the world.
1. Morecambe - Steak and Ale Pie
English football fans’ love affair with pie is like a gravy-laden Romeo and Juliet - and much more long-lived. Every Saturday on terraces up and down the country, mountains of meat and pastry make even the most miserable drizzly five-nil defeat infinitely more bearable. Though there are hundreds of worthy examples, the undisputed kings of the matchday pie are Lancashire club Morecombe, whose pastries have won several accolades over the years. Boasting gravy “so rich it has its own offshore bank account,” according to one discerning critic, Morecambe might be your best bet for the quintessential football pie experience.
2. San Francisco - Dungeness Crab Pretzel
Great stadium dining doesn’t have to be rough and ready. At the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium, for instance, cheap hot dogs and dodgy chips are the last things on the minds of hungry NFL fanatics. At the stadium’s hospitality-heavy Touchdown Terrace, visitors can gorge themselves on treats like poké nachos and bibimbap bowls, with the highlight of the menu being the imposing “Dungeness Crab Pretzel”. A butter-toasted pretzel baguette, stuffed with knuckle and claw meat mixed with aioli, dijon mustard and chives, this sandwich is proof that sophistication doesn’t mean skimping on deliciousness.
3. Atlanta - Burgerizza
Then again, sometimes subtlety and snobbery are the last things you want when you’re watching the big game. Just occasionally, what you really need is a colossal quantity of calories crammed into the sort of fast-food mash-up that would make Adam Richman sweat. Step forward, the “Burgerizza”. Served at SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, the Burgerizza does exactly what it says on the tin, stuffing a 20oz beef patty, bacon and cheese between two eight-inch pepperoni pizzas. Like the demented dream of a ravenous 12-year-old, the Burgerizza is awe-inspiring, and probably a terrible idea.
Check out Tom's incredible meatball recipe from Twisted: A Cookbook:
4. New Jersey - Fat Sandwich
Speaking of the star of “Man vs Food”, one of the show’s most popular episodes showed just what’s possible when you cross dinner with competition. The “Fat Sandwich Challenge” at the R U Hungry grease truck outside Rutgers’ University’s famous football stadium attracts almost as many fans as the sport itself, as supporters flock to watch competitors take on an epic five sandwich feast. To complete the challenge, you must put away your choice of sandwiches stuffed with everything from cheesesteak to chicken fingers. As Game Day dishes go, this is definitely one of the most OTT.
5. Moscow - Sunflower Seeds
Not every matchday tradition has to involve ungodly levels of heartburn. In fact, in a shocking turn of events, some of our most enduring dining habits stray dangerously close to actually being good for you, especially if you’re a football fan from Russia. For as long as supporters have packed themselves into the Luzhniki Stadium, they have spent 90 minutes shelling and scoffing fried and salted sunflower seeds. Ask anyone who regularly attends Russian matches, and they’ll tell you about the scree of chewed shells that cascade down the stalls after the final whistle.
6. Tokyo - Chankonabe
A great Game Day dinner doesn’t have to be eaten exclusively by those watching. Some of the most iconic dishes actually form an integral part of the sport itself, proving that there’s much more to athletics than endless shuttle runs and weights. An essential part of a sumo wrestler’s diet, “Chankonabe” is a Japanese stew laden with delicious morsels of chicken, fish, tofu, vegetables and anything else that goes well with broth. Usually eaten in vast quantities as part of a sumo’s unique weight-gain diet, the dish is served at restaurants across Tokyo as well as at sumo wrestling events across the country.
7. Oaxaca - Chapulines
Part of the power of sport is in its ability to introduce different parts of the world to exciting new traditions and customs. “Chapulines”, or deep-fried grasshoppers, have long been a staple snack in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, whether at a football game or any other sporting occasion. Now, however, the spicy, salty, crispy dish has proved so popular that it has spread as far away as Seattle. According to one source, around 1.2 million bugs were eaten at Seattle Mariners games during 2018, which just goes to show that a great Game Day dish can work anywhere in the world.
Part of what makes Game Day so exciting is our individual rituals and traditions. Whether you’ve worn the same unwashed lucky shirt for 30 years, or only choose to sit in a particular spot on the sofa, everything we do around sport adds up to make a magical experience. But, if you ever do feel like trying something a little different, your menu is a great place to start. As these dishes prove, there are some seriously tasty ways to watch sport.