I grew up a misfit teenager shunning all jock trappings. Due to my commitment to the South Park High School Eagles Marching Band, I was an unwilling witness to many, many football games, none of which I paid the least bit of attention to, preferring the company of a small penlight and book. I even got homework done in the stands. Playoffs time, when we lost, I was secretly overjoyed for the end of the football season. No more Friday nights spent shivering on the metal bleachers. No more playing halftime shows that people in the stands used as an excuse for bathroom breaks. No more pretending (albeit poorly) to care.
Then something happened in college. No longer expected to care, I started keeping track of pro football (as well as a few other sports, but more on that another time), although I stayed fast and loose with game-time commitments. Still, when the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2006, I whooped and hollered celebrated with my then-housemates. After the game, we ran out to Forbes and Murray in Squirrel Hill and celebrated with the rest of our neighborhood. I saw people running around shirtless in the snow, sliding down Forbes by holding onto moving cars and buses. I saw people knock down a dumpster and dance on top of it. The young and the old, the drunk and the sober. I saw how this city celebrates their team. And it was exhilarating. (And a little scary.)
The 2009 Super Bowl win against the Cardinals held a different kind of significance for me. I had my heart broken in the Fall of 2008 by no less than a devout Seahawks fan, who loved to claim that our city’s team had stolen their Super Bowl title due to a bad call. Months after the final conversation of our relationship, I sat in a roomful of friends, cheering out of equal parts love for our team, our city, and spite for that guy from Seattle. Mature? Not really. But we won. Again. Damn right.
Going into this most recent season, I cooled on the Steelers a bit. It was a mix of reasons, but mostly the Ben Roethlisberger stuff and a new-found enjoyment of college football, specifically the team of my partner and his family, the West Virginia Mountaineers. Still, seeing the unruly mane jutting out of the helmet of #43 Polamalu, catching the sunny/frightening smile of #86 Ward, the hulking frame of #34 Mendenhall… There’s really nothing like rooting for the home team.
That’s my abridged history with football. For the AFC Championship weekend, we cooked up something that might have to make a Super Bowl reappearance. This recipe is based on the traditional “Pittsburgh” salad, but it’s also based on a failure. I was all set to make lentil burgers, but upon their completion in the oven, they were just too crumbly to make it on the buns. My intrepid dining companion and partner came up with this terrific solution to our dinner problem. So this recipe truly belongs to him.
The Vegan Pittsburgh Salad
– 1 lentil burger patty, crumbled (I haven’t included my recipe, cause it’s still a work in progress, but the Veggie Table has a good one.)
– Iceberg salad mix
– Sweet & Sour dressing (not the same as the sauce used in Asian cooking – we used the tangy Giant Eagle variation.)
– 1 avocado, thinly sliced
– 1 small tomato, chopped
For the potatoes:
– 5 to 6 small red potatoes, cut into even chunks
– 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
– 2 tsp turmeric
– 1 tsp cumin
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss potatoes in oil and spices and cook in the oven for 25 minutes, tossing a few times as they bake.
– Once the potatoes are done, assemble the salad:
- Iceberg salad mixture
- Crumbled lentil patty
- Avocado & tomatoes
Grab a fork and enjoy! Just don’t get any on your Terrible Towel.