Real Cooking

“Who do you want to win the Super Bowl?”

Until this question was asked, I hadn’t given the subject any thought. Professional football is really low on my priority list of things in need of personal attention these days and, to be honest, I didn’t even know what teams had made it into the playoffs, let alone the finals.

I looked across the dinner table at my son, who had made the inquiry, and, not wanting to look totally lame in his eyes, countered with my own question.

“What team are you rooting for?”

“I’m not sure yet. Who do you want, Dad?”

“I always cheer for the underdog,” he said.

I knew that was coming. It’s my husband’s standard Super Bowl answer.

“And who might that be, dear?”

My husband flashed a smile at me and announced, “I need to give that some further study.”

Oh, he couldn’t fool me. It was at that moment that I knew he didn’t have the foggiest idea either what teams were playing in the Super Bowl this year. I was hoping he would know so we both wouldn’t look uninformed. Maybe I could get some help from my daughter.

“Meg, who do you like in the Super Bowl?”

“I don’t care. I just watch the commercials and eat.”

Strike out. I decided to come clean.

“So…Alex, now remind me. Who are the teams again?”

“The New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens.”

“Who? When did Baltimore get a team? The Ravens? Never heard of them.”

I looked at my husband who only shrugged his shoulders.

“The Ravens, huh? Is that to complement the Baltimore Orioles? Are they like a city of bird teams or something?”

My son just rolled his eyes.

“No really” I continued. “They just keep on sneaking in teams that I have never heard of. Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars.

Just who are these people? Arizona Cardinals. Indianapolis Colts. Wasn’t it bad enough to adjust to hearing the phrase Tennessee Oilers? St. Louis Rams? In my mind the Oilers are still in Houston and the Rams have never left the West Coast.

I think that at this point my son regretted ever opening the subject for discussion.

“Football,” I declared, “hasn’t been the same since Tom Landry retired from the game.”

And that’s true. At least for me. Until Coach Landry left football, I had been a fan. Even before the Dallas Cowboys became “America’s team,” even before their scantily clad cheerleaders started selling calendars, I had followed Tom and his team through the ups and downs of winning and losing seasons.

Why the Cowboys? I don’t know. Maybe it was a legacy left to me by my father. Maybe it was the jaunty hat and the dignified manner worn by a coach in control of his players-and himself-that appealed to me. Maybe it was the beauty and the excitement of a Roger Staubach “Hail Mary” pass being caught and run into the end zone by teammate Drew Pearson.

Whatever the reasons, I was a loyal fan until the departure of Tom Landry. But with the team’s franchise being purchased by a new owner and with the onset of a new coach, the Cowboys seemed different. And I didn’t like the change.

After the transition, I just quit following the team and lost interest in professional football all together.

And since then, unbeknownst to me, teams like the Baltimore Ravens have crept into the NFL.

The Ravens. Since our Super Bowl dinner discussion, I have learned that the team took their name from the classic Edgar Allen Poe poem, “The Raven.” Poe, as you may or may not know, made his home in Baltimore and is buried there. Understand that this week, several “fans” have left tributes to the team at Poe’s gravesite.

“Will the Giants win?” Read posters propped up by the poet’s headstone. “Nevermore!”

Oh, brother. Poe never really found peace in life. You would think that in death he could just be left alone.

Anyway, the Super Bowl will come and we, like most of America, will watch. At least the commercials. And I will be cheering for…the Giants.

I don’t know anything about this year’s team, its players or its statistics. But at least I’ve heard of them before.

And, after all, before becoming a coach, Tom Landry played for the New York Giants. So here’s to you, coach. In memory.

* * *

I haven’t checked, but maybe this week Joe Kleinsasser’s column will be about puff pastry. This recipe is really good and, despite its long ingredient list, goes together quickly. You can do a lot of the prep work the day before so it can be ready to just throw together for your Super Bowl Sunday party.

Chicken Fajitas

(Makes about six fajitas)

4 tbs. vegetable oil, divided

2 tbs. lemon juice

11/2 tsp. seasoned salt

11/2 tsp. dried oregano

11/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, optional

11/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips

1/2 medium red pepper, julienned

1/2 medium green pepper, julienned

4 green onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup chopped onion

Flour tortillas, warmed

Shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, black olives, etc.

In a large Ziplock bag, combine two tablespoons oil, lemon juice and seasonings. Add chicken, turn to coat meat and marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour or overnight. When ready to use, saute the peppers and onions in the remaining oil until crisp tender. Remove and keep warm. In same skillet, cook chicken and marinade for five or six minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Return pepper mixture to skillet and heat through. Spoon filling down middle of tortillas and fold in half. Serve with various toppings.

Editor’s note: Cheryl will surprised, if not pleased, to know that the Tennessee Oilers are now the Tennessee Titans. It is hard to keep up.

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