I love football. I also happen to have great friends who do not love football as I do, and this time of year I often find myself trying to share my love with them, in a way that they won’t hate. As such, I’ve developed a pretty foolproof system for hosting killer Super Bowl parties, and I’m thrilled to share it with you now. Super Bowl L is this Sunday, February 7th at 3:30pm PST, so let’s get ready!
There are four major areas you need to work on to make sure they show up, and then to make sure they have a great time.
- The Menu
This is the most important part of your invite, so do your research, stock your fridge, and prepare crowd-pleasing foods that will keep guests coming back year after year. My go-to dish for the Super Bowl is a Texas culinary abomi-sensation called Frito Pie. Fritos corn chips, chili, cheese, and optional onions combine into a truly gross-sounding, but surprisingly delicious high-calorie treat. Recipes for Frito Pie vary, including baked casserole versions, but mine is a simpler, build-it-yourself treat that accommodates varied palettes and levels of vegan/vegetarianism. My recipe is below, and please tweet me pictures of your take on Frito Pie @thepopcultref. I support other themed foods, but if you put out a ham ball, or something as truly heinous as this, you and I cannot even be casual friends. For beverages, provide your guests with a crappy American lager of your choosing, or something from the region of the team you are encouraging them to root for.
You need to provide your guests with enough context so they can enjoy the experience, but not so much as to make their eyes glaze over. Remember that what you love about football might not be what they will love about it. Check out my full guide to How to Watch Football If You Are Forced To for more on this, but give your guests stories to follow, funny things to look for, and lots of information about the half-time show. People love half-time shows. Find funny, interesting, and strange articles and links to share with your guests in the week leading up to the Super Bowl so that they get excited about the game before the big day. Tell them the story of the game and help them pick a side to root for. Encourage football cosplay, which the great Glen Weldon once pointed out is absolutely what is happening when a grown person dresses up as their football idols. If you are joining me in rooting for the Carolina Panthers, their colors are black and teal, as you can see here:
If you want to root for the Denver Broncos, they wear a garish orange, as you can see here:
- Fun and Games
The next bit of advice about hosting a great Super Bowl party is that you need to provide some kind of hook that creates a powerful, but short-term investment in the game for your guests. The perfect solution to this is a no-knowledge-needed football pool. All you need is a 10 × 10 grid, and some great (cheap) prizes. Attendees pick squares at random, you draw numbers 0 through 9 and assign them to rows, and then check the score at various intervals to see who wins the prize for the quarter. A full explanation of how to set this up is here. I recommend adding a 5th prize at 3 ½ quarters, because the last quarter of any football game tends to last way, way longer than the previous quarters, and you might lose the room when this starts to happen.
- Non-judgmental atmosphere
This is absolutely the most important part of hosting a killer Super Bowl party, if you want everyone to enjoy themselves. You need to make sure that they feel absolutely free to ask any questions about the game, and that you provide kind and thoughtful answers when they do show an interest. 3+ hours is a long damn time to ask someone to watch something they have no interest in watching, and by agreeing to do so, these heroes are giving you a great gift. Don’t spit all over that gift by ignoring questions, patronizing them with your tone because they’ve asked a seemingly simple question, or making anyone feel that the way they are choosing to watch the sport is in some way less appropriate than the way you watch them. Party foul! If you help them learn to love something about the game, they’ll be glad they came and spent time with you and your adolescent obsession with watching low-level superheroes battle for sport-justice on television.
I’m confident that if you follow these tenets, you will have an outstandingly successful Super Bowl party this weekend. Let me know how it goes in the comments.
Lauren Cheal’s Frito Pie Recipe
Vat o’ Chili
When it comes to the chili to use in your Frito Pie, I’m a fan of really making it your own. If you like meat, use meat. If you prefer to go vegetarian or vegan, that’s awesome. Beans or no beans? Your Frito Pie, your call.
Please note that ALL quantities listed here are approximate. This will work for you, but so will leaving half of it out or changing the amount or types of beans, or using a different amount of spices. Chili is extremely low-maintenance, and friendly to novice cooks. Try some things out and see what you like!
500g – 1kg lean ground turkey
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 zucchini, sliced into ½ inch rounds and then quartered into triangles
500g or so of button mushrooms, white or cremini are fine, cleaned and sliced into 1-inch chunks
at least ¼ cup of chili powder, plus some ancho and/or chipotle chili powder if you have it and are feeling extra spicy
1 Tbsp (15 mL) onion powder
1 tsp (5 mL) garlic powder
1 tsp (5 mL) dry mustard
2 large cans (796 mL) of diced tomatoes
2 cans of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf
salt to taste
- Over medium heat, brown the ground turkey in a large pot (a big enameled pot works great if you have one, or your other biggest pot is perfect too). Add in the diced onion and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the sliced zucchini and mushrooms, cooking for 2-3 minutes and letting them soak up the onion-y, meaty flavours. Reduce heat to low.
- Add all of your dry spices: chili powder(s), onion and garlic powder, and the dry mustard. Mix throughout the vegetables and meat.
- Add the tomatoes and drained beans. Add the bay leaf and some salt to taste.
- Adjust liquid level by adding water if chili is too thick. Add more chili powder now because you probably didn’t quite do enough to start. Bring to a simmer, cover.
- Allow chili to simmer over very low heat for at least 5 hours, more if possible. Check back every 20-30 minutes or so to add water if needed, adjust seasoning, and stir.
Fritos corn chips (don’t get fancy with the chip shapes here, just the standard yellow and blue bag of curled rectangles)
Vat o’ Chili (or Mess o’ Chili, depending on party size)
sharp cheddar cheese, grated
one onion, finely diced (totally optional)
To serve, have party guests build their own Frito Pie in individual bowls, with full, judgment-free access to the fixin’s bar. My preferred method is corn chips on the bottom, hearty ladleful of chili, a few more corn chips on the top, cheese, and a bit of onion. In the end, my ratio is about 50% corn chips to 50% chili. Encourage your guests to make it their own with whatever crazy ratio they want to try. You’ll find that first timers will choose just a few corn chips due to fear. Don’t deride them; just give them a knowing and comforting nod. They’ll be back next year.