Huddle around the buffet and prepare for America's national pastime. It's first and goal: Guard the dip.
Super Bowl Sunday is now the nation's second-biggest "food holiday," trailing only Thanksgiving. Of course, once you factor out the turkey, you find that football fans have turned pizza and chicken wings into holiday dishes, with a bold medley of potato chips, pretzels and Cheez Doodles as the trimmings.
Pigskin pigouts explain why America consumes 30 million to 35 million pounds of snack food, double the country's typical daily consumption, on Super Bowl Sunday. The Snack Food Association estimates that on a typical game day, this country's munch madness will include 12 million pounds of potato chips, 9 million pounds of tortilla chips and 4 million pounds of pretzels and popcorn.
Potato chip consumption alone might add 27 billion calories and 1.8 billion grams of fat to America's hefty rump, according to the Calorie Control Council, a nonprofit group representing the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry.
The council estimates the typical armchair quarterback chows down on 1,200 calories and 40 grams of fat. To work that off, it would take two hours and 10 minutes running around a football field.
But perhaps it's best not to mention such facts. Perhaps it's easier to just accept that every Super Bowl partier will be penalized in the waistline.
Then again, isn't overeating a part of any holiday?
This year, dig deep into your super bowlful of munchies, and consider our unofficial holiday's unofficial holiday food -- chips and dip
1. Is There a Chip and Dip Culture?
Candy canes, eggnog and marshmallow peeps might not be a dietitian's dream, but we talk ourselves into eating these things because they're considered time-honored holiday treats.
Before we reject our Super Bowl snacks for nutritional reasons, let's just remember that they have a history, too, and that history says a lot about who we are.
Pretzels are perhaps the most ancient of snack foods. Medieval monks in A.D. 600 came up with this salty, crunchy delight as a reward for students. This explains why traditional pretzels are twisted: to resemble the arms of praying angels. This also explains why other pretzels are shaped like rods: to remind us of the punishment we richly deserve.
When European settlers arrived in North America, natives turned the colonists on to the joys of popcorn.
The potato chip might be one of the most enduring contributions of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. The railroad tycoon was dining in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1853 when he sent his potatoes back to the kitchen, complaining they were cut too thickly.
An outraged chef furiously cut a fresh order of spuds ridiculously thin, then fried and salted them, and sent them back. Vanderbilt apparently didn't get the joke.
The first man to doodle with cheese was 84-year-old Morrie Yohai of Kings Point, N.Y. In the early 1950s, he and co-workers at the Old London Melba Toast factory played around with a cornmeal extractor that spit out fingerlike curlicues that would one day result in a generation of children with unnaturally orange mustaches.
The Cheez Doodle now stands as a uniquely American symbol of ingenuity. Yohai, the Henry Ford of cheese snack food, is now the vice president at Borden in charge of snacks. He told New York Newsday in January that in addition to his doodle duties, he's also responsible for choosing the toys for boxes of Cracker Jack.