Guilty Pleasures: Low-brow foods star on Super Bowl Sunday

Once a year, friends don warm sweaters and sports jerseys, ready their battle cries and sojourn to the homes of friends and family to partake of culinary delights featuring melted Velveeta cheese, chili and a dizzying array of dips.

Oh, yes. There’s football involved, too.

Traditionally, though, Super Bowl food is the stuff parties are made of – the cheesier, spicier and gooier, the better – especially when your favorite team isn’t doing so well. What better way to drown yard-line frustrations than with a Frito full of taco dip or a plateful of chicken wings? Diets, carb counts and fat calories just don’t exist on Super Bowl Sunday.

It’s an atmosphere that lends itself to casual, laid-back fun with foods we just don’t allow ourselves very often, acknowledged amateur chef Tom Coerver. During the year he cooks turkey, jambalaya and complicated recipes, but when hosting Super Bowl parties, he dishes up savories such as melted Velveeta and chili dip. The Creve Coeur resident and his wife, Anne, also use un-PC paper plates and plastic bowls, which they avoid the rest of the year.

“Paper products of your team are welcome, since we’re an NFC town,” Coerver said. “The food has to support the game and commercials; it can’t interfere. It’s not Thanksgiving. There are no themes or fancy dishes. Just good, casual finger food you can eat at your seat.”

That includes Coerver’s Dill Weed Dip; a simple tray of cheeses, salami and crackers; and for the child in all of us, pigs in a blanket with assorted mustards.

It doesn’t matter who provides the food, though, as long as it’s on time and plentiful. “People still seem to want the less complicated and more familiar, expected foods at Super Bowl parties, such as nachos and salsa, chili, sub sandwiches, chicken wraps, meatballs and chicken wings,” said Mark Russo, who operates Spazio’s at Westport and Russo’s Gourmet Express in Overland.

Kindergarten teacher Christa Cordia agreed, as she has attended parties with fancier food, but relies on her family recipe for Molly Forcshe Dip: In a pie pan, combine cubed Velveeta and chili, sprinkle shredded cheese on top and bake for about 20 minutes. Serve with Fritos for dipping. “Once a year, I make this just for the Super Bowl, and it is demolished,” the West County resident noted.

Chili is a good choice in general, said Bryna Kandel of Reservations Catering in Creve Coeur. “It’s warm, the weather is cold, it can sit and you can have all sorts of things to put on it.”

Other Super Bowl snacks Kandel’s often asked to serve up include Mexican seven-layer dip and salsa-and-cream cheese roll-ups. Neither appetizer has to be heated, and both make excellent finger food. However, both snacks are labor-intensive. “It’s the one time of year people are happy to buy guilty-pleasure food from someone else and enjoy it,” Kandel said.

Because partygoers will be paying so much attention to the television screen, easygoing and familiar foods are vital. For instance, Sherrie Meek, a Glendale kindergarten teacher, wouldn’t dream of a Super Bowl without her favorite chicken wings. “They’re a bit sweet and sour, and my family adores them. I sometimes serve them other times, but they’re a Super Bowl staple whether we’re at a party or home together.”

And football isn’t just an American obsession anymore, either. Fans from across the pond have adopted our game and its foods as their passions, too. St. Louisan Mike Coady, a retired pilot from County Cork, Ireland, said it was only normal for him to get to know what American games were about as an immigrant. “Football took over rather than baseball or basketball,” he said.

His attitude toward the game is almost as passionate as his feelings toward his wife Lourdes’ special game-day Lasagna With Bolognese Sauce and may even strike seasoned fans as a bit extreme. Football time is hallowed time, and when the Coadys’ four sons lived in town, the actual game-watching was limited to Coady, his wife, her homemade lasagna and their four boys. Other wives and all “twittering and nattering” were barred completely.

“Horrible, is it not?” Coady confessed, laughing. “We had football, family and lasagna. The wives, who were good sports, then made a party for themselves. Not football, though!”