I am, resolutely, not a sports fan. I don’t get into, nor do I particularly understand, football, basketball, baseball, or soccer. I used to think I get my non-sports gene from my family: growing up, no one would admit to being concerned about who was playing whom or what the score was from the latest game.
Except that my mother and my grandmother followed our NFL football team, the Broncos, and my grandmother, for some reason, could actually tell you a bit about who the players were for our major league baseball team, the Rockies. So while no one would confess to being interested in sports, I recall hearing my mother cursing the TV late on Sunday afternoons when the Broncos were losing, which, it seems to me, they did a lot of when I was young.
This strange sports enthusiasm masquerading as ambivalence permeated my youth. I only became caught up in any sort of sports fervor when the Broncos made it to the Super Bowl twice in the 1980s, in 1987 and 1988. (Of course, they lost both years). Even in my youth, anything that involved celebratory fervor had to also involve food. I was eleven years old in 1987, so my cooking repertoire still involved using a lot of pre-packaged mixes. I was also a huge fan of food coloring – that lovely type that uses Red Dye #40 and comes in tiny tubes that turns food neon shades of red, blue, green, and yellow and can be mixed together to make orange. I also believed in experimentation with food. One of the single greatest gifts both my mother and grandmother gave me was that they never discouraged this experimentation – they just stepped back and let me have fun. I decided that, in honor of the Broncos making it to the Super Bowl, I’d make something that was blue and orange.
In 1987, I made blue and orange cupcakes. Recipe – one box of white cake mix, one container of white pre-made frosting, and plenty of blue, red, and yellow food dye. The cupcakes were plenty colorful – full on blue cupcake and blue frosting and then full on orange cupcake and orange frosting. My family ate these without protest, even if the blue cupcakes did look a bit, well, toxically blue. The Broncos lost. I was disappointed, even though I really didn’t care much about football. The loss just felt so communal and was probably my first real experience with fandom loss.
In 1988, I decided to step up my enthusiasm game. I’d been making a lot of boxed vanilla pudding that year. I don’t remember all the particulars, and my mother doesn’t want to remember, but I’m pretty sure I dyed half of the vanilla pudding orange and the other half blue and swirled them together artistically. I wish I had a picture – I’m pretty sure that when the blue and orange puddings actually mixed, they were a muddy swirl of brown. The Broncos lost again. The pudding became the perfect representation of that loss.
The Broncos made it to the Super Bowl again in 1990. By that time, I was fully into teenager-hood and didn’t care. I didn’t bother making anything that year and haven’t in any of the subsequent years that they’ve made it since, even though I think there were a few years that they might have actually won.
This Sunday, the Broncos will be playing in a Super Bowl, yet again. If they lose, my main consolation will be that they aren’t playing the Seahawks this year, because living in the PNW, in a state without a national team, the Seahawks are the chosen ones and it was a sad Monday a few years ago when the won decisively against the Broncos. I’ll be half-heartedly paying attention to the game via the Internet, peeking a look at the score occasionally, if I remember to. I’m so very, very tempted though to try a more sophisticated and updated recipe with blue and orange something – maybe using natural dyes or making little footballs out of mashed potatoes or making Marzipan Broncos or…or maybe not.
In the meantime, I’m sharing a photo of a blue and orange cocktail. I’ll admit that, as I was writing this post, I was wracking my brain to think of what I had in the pantry that was orange and blue, so I could post an appropriately themed photo. Orange is easy – I have mandarin oranges in the fridge. But blue? Except for blueberries and blue potatoes, I can’t think of a time when food turning blue is a good thing. Until I thought about the liquor shelf in the pantry and realized I have blue Curacao. This layered cocktail took the juice of one mandarin orange, about 1 ounce of Malibu rum and two ounces of blue Curacao. Win or lose, I’ll probably be drinking one of these on Sunday.