We've all heard the expression "dog days of summer." For the longest time, I actually thought that this expression referred to the long, hot days of summer that are so long and brutally hot, even dogs suffer. Thank goodness for Google (actually, thank goodness for my freshman Government professor, for throwing that random reference into the middle of a long, dry lecture. It's all I remember from his class).
The phrase "dog days of summer" actually refers to the sultriest part of the summer season, from about July 3 through August 2 or so. It's during this period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun. Whatever the reason, this stretch of summer is undoubtedly marked by lethargy and inactivity. It's just too danged hot to do anything outside.
I have to admit that August and February are my least favorite months of the year. Both months extend our two seasonal extremes here in Georgia: summer and winter (such as it is). My husband and I are opposites when it comes to our climate preferences; he loves the steamy, hot days of summer, and I love fall and yes, even winter. The point, I suppose, is that the weather is what it is, no matter how much we complain or enjoy it. What choice do we have except to stick it out and hope for change sooner rather than later? Not much. Might as well look on the bright side, all year long.
The month of August does have one redeeming factor. It used to have two, but our children are all grown now, so there's no one going back to school this month. That leaves football, the queen mother of all sports, that smash-mouth harbinger of fall loved by big burly he-men and prissy southern ladies alike. Football. Rivalry. Cooling temperatures. Tailgating, and some of the tastiest, most creative food you'll find on the planet, no matter what month it is. Football makes the dog days of summer bearable.
Earlier this week, there was an Atlanta Falcons preseason game on television. Oh, the announcers were local guys, all pro-Falcon guys (a nice departure from regular season games, my dad would say), and it was 92 degrees at kickoff. They played in Miami, of all places. Still, I could close my eyes, listen to the game, crank the air conditioner down to 55, and even light a fire in the fireplace if I wanted to. I could do all that, and my imagination could have landed me right smack in the middle of October, one of my favorite months of the year.
There's just something about football season, isn't there? Beginning late August and ending with the Super Bowl, life is better, especially here in the South. The entire nation loves its college teams, no doubt, but we here in the South rank college ball right up there with the church on Sunday and fried chicken. We love it. We love it so much that we take sometimes that love to extremes, but man do we love it.
And tailgating – oh my. Tailgating here in the South is an art form, both a culinary and visual virtuosity expressed through food, décor, clothing and yes, even through technology. A couple of years ago, we tailgated at an Ole Miss game. Both of my nieces and several friends' children attend that old southern institution, and we have even more friends who graduated from the University of Mississippi. I must say, I was astounded – pleasantly – by how high Ole Miss tailgaters set the bar on game day.
Our tent boasted not one, not two, but three crystal chandeliers inside. There were two big-screen televisions set up inside, and two smaller-screen TVs set up outside the tent, near the grills. Yes, grills. Plural. There was a refrigerator. Not a cooler, mind you. A refrigerator. And it was well-stocked. During the course of the day, we ate both brunch and dinner; in fact, the eating never stopped. Cocktails were not limited to one or two selections. There was a full bar. We ate off of "good" china; we drank from crystal glasses. I'm pretty sure the silver was actual silver, but I can't swear to it. I didn't bite it or try to scratch it, anyway. Mother wouldn't have approved.
I've tailgated at other football games in the South: Vanderbilt, University of Alabama, Clemson, Auburn, University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. Funny how each school's tailgate parties have personalities all their own. Some are a little more, shall we say, rowdy than others. Some are more high brow. Some are just throw-down great food in a fun atmosphere. In fact, most are that way. I don't think there's another sport at which we tailgate quite like we do for football, is there?
So there you have it. If you're dragging through the dog days of summer, hoping and praying for temperatures to dip back down into the 80s, even for an hour or so, think about football. Better yet, find a game on TV, even if it's a game being replayed from a past season. Turn the air in your house down to the chilly 50s or 60s. Invite family and friends over, and serve what we call "football food." You'll feel better in no time.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL (Apr 2016, Skyhorse Publishing), was recently named the Finalist for 2017 Georgia Author of the Year in the Detective/Mystery genre. Her previous three books are written with Southern humor. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national true crime radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she's not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family, and life in her beloved South. Follow Carole on Facebook, twitter at @caroletownsend, or Instagram at carole.w.riter