Without pondering this question, answer: What follows Thanksgiving measured by the amount of food Americans consume on one occasion?
July 4th picnics? Not even close.
It's the Super Bowl, at least that's what the folks who count how much we eat say. And the occasion, named nearly a half century ago by Norma Hunt, wife of Lamar Hunt (who owned the Dallas Texans cum Kansas City Chiefs and was a founder of the American Football League), has only gained stature, prestige, financial cachet and hype since then.
Obviously viewers will be tempted to eat themselves into a pre-game stupor, leaving instructions for family and friends to awaken them during the commercials. But Super Bowl XLV is shaping up to be a real game. Las Vegas has set a stratospheric over/under at somewhere just north of 40 points, and favors the Green Bay Packers by three. This one could be a classic.
OK. Here's "classic" explained for the nearly 50 million viewers for whom Sunday's 6 p.m. ET contest will be their first and last pro football game of the year:
The Pittsburgh Steelers' defense is nasty writ large. But suffice to say that the Green Bay Packers aren't shy about bone-cracking either. Picture two hard-hitting defenses -- the Steelers led by Troy Polamalu, who edged out the Packers' Clay Matthews as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year -- going against two of the best quarterbacks in the game: Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh.
This sucker has can't-miss written all over it.
The key then, for the 100 million Americans who'll tune in to the Fox Sports broadcast, is pace. When you intersperse football and food, you have to think of New Orleans, and Judy Walker, whose observations on exquisite cuisine appear in the city's Times-Picayune, shared some PR-driven stats with readers. "One billion chicken wings were consumed last year," Walker quoted from a source who tallied the intake for 2010's Super Bowl XLIV. That stat stunned me when a friend who sells processed meats passed it along. I would have lost money, betting that pizza was the big Super Bowl winner. (By the by, don't you just love the commercials that attempt to supplant pizza with fish?)
Because the Super Bowl is just an all-day party, with only the game -- buried somewhere in the eats and adult beverages -- as the central focus, there is no specific food tradition. Think Thanksgiving without turkey, Christmas without ham (with apologies to those whose dietary restrictions eschew pork), and July 4th without potato salad. It just doesn't work. Grab a little or a lot of whatever pleases you and head for the party.
And go ahead, quaff a ginger beer and vodka (that's a Saints Safety Smash) while the daylong pre-game show stops just short of driving you to a movie channel. Pace yourself. The day will be long. The bounty will be, well, bounteous. And the game will be a smash hit, literally.