I didn’t want to go. I especially didn’t want to go with him. What did I care about baseball? In my five years on the planet, I had only wanted to play or watch football. And this guy—the one trying to steal my mom from me—wanted to make me sit through a baseball game?
Fortunately, the guy already knew how I ticked. If he could win my stomach, he could win the rest of me. When we arrived at Capital City Stadium to watch the Columbia (S.C.) Mets (yes, the precursor to Tim Tebow’s former minor league team), we didn’t find our seats immediately. We found a concession stand. My nemesis ordered, paid and handed me a small, soggy brown bag. I had eaten peanuts before, but I had never eaten a boiled peanut. The first shell didn’t crack under my molars. It gave way after the gentlest bite. Unlike its more popular roasted cousin, the boiled peanut wouldn’t require more labor than it was worth. That blast of peanut-flavored saltwater hit my taste buds first. Next, three perfect jewels fell from the bottom of the shell and dissolved with a few chews.
Unless you’re from the Deep South, your ballpark peanut experience was entirely different. You remember the crunch of the shells and the crackle they made when underfoot. Boiled peanut shells don’t crackle. But they do pile up when cracked by a 5-year-old whose response to the first Total commercial (YOU’D HAVE TO EAT X BOWLS OF [Insert other cereal here] TO MATCH THE NUTRITION OF ONE BOWL OF TOTAL!) was to eat five bowls of Honeycomb before his mom rose on a Saturday morning. I finished the first bag by the end of the second inning. We plowed through a second and a third, and I could have kept eating until we ate every peanut in the Carolinas. As the shells pooled on the ground, the idea of this man coming around more often didn’t seem so awful. He would teach me to catch a baseball. Later, he’d teach me to tie a tie. Eventually, he’d serve as the best man at my wedding. He became my stepdad two years after that game, and later he became just my dad.
You probably also have a memory that combines food and sports, and that’s why we’re launching SI Eats (www.si.com/eats). But food and sports don’t only intersect at the concession stand. They meet in the tailgate lots, where LSU keeps winning the national title year after year even if the Tigers can’t seem to beat Alabama on the field. They meet in the kitchen as you test various crack dip recipes before everyone comes over on a fall Sunday. They meet at the sports bar where you spend 13 hours on the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament. And of course they meet on the road to see your favorite team play.
We also know you care as much about what you eat as the teams you follow. Readers get mad when I don’t rank their favorite college football team high enough, but they get downright irate if I leave their favorite barbecue joint off a list of the nation’s best. If the televised version of sports media is going to force us to embrace debate, we should at least have that debate while splitting a rack of ribs.
And while we won’t limit ourselves, it’s a safe bet that you won’t read much about foie gras here. Plenty of places on the Web write beautifully about where to dine. We want to tell you where to eat. (And, if it’s your thing, to drink.) Expect a healthy—OK, that’s probably the wrong word—helping of burgers, barbecue, pizza, wings and beer. We’ll introduce you to the tastiest food and drink in the stadium, outside the stadium and on the way to the stadium. We’ll also profile the people cooking that food and offer recipes and tips that will help you become a champion in your own kitchen.
Our mission is to help you create memories as special as the one described here. It’s going to be a delicious adventure, and we’re hungry to get started.