Tailgating is powerful. It connects us to our children, to our friends, to our place, and to our food. It enriches our lives in more ways than most realize while they are doing it.

We’ll have a drink, we’ll talk, we’ll have a good time, and all the while it is about hope, the power of food, bringing people together, cooking, and sharing. Bonds take place over tailgating because you’re collectively supporting your university and this whole football mania that is Alabama football.

In the South, college sports are serious. It’s like religion. It’s serious stuff.

‘Bama fans are passionate about our tailgating, and we are passionate about our SEC football.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of people who come to this tiny little town of Tuscaloosa, Alabama on game day. The stadium itself fits 100,000, and there are another 150,000 people gathered at various spots within a half-mile of the stadium.

It is a sea of crimson within this scene of conviviality and camaraderie. Some people take their tailgating very seriously — they bring proper plateware and silver and make it sophisticated. Others just grill hamburgers and hang out. But everyone takes pride in what they are making. As the Chef and Owner of the Hot and Hot Fish Club, I have to bring my A-game when I tailgate on the quad in the shadow of the Bryant-Denny Stadium.

There is an expectation when my wife and I show up at a tailgate. Everybody’s saying, “OK, Hot and Hot Fish Club, let’s see what you’ve got.” I have to show up with a great spread, because people would be a little bit disappointed if we showed up with hamburgers and hot dogs. The little-known secret, though, is that what makes tailgating food great is the spirit you bring to it. For me, that spirit is all about reflecting and reinforcing my family traditions.

This tailgate menu is representative of my family, of Alabama football, of Southern traditions, and of the Hot and Hot Fish Club.

In our tent I am cooking up some fried pies, a game-day cocktail, shrimp with crimson grits, a salad of apple, almond, and endive, and pulled-pork sandwiches with cole slaw and homemade BBQ sauce.

It doesn’t get much better than that.