Super Bowl Food Heritage Is All About Pleasing The Gang

by Neal Kielar, Tastemaker in Residence

At 50 years and going strong, the Super Bowl is an American tradition - a holiday to many. That got me wondering what a Super Bowl party would have been like back in the day. So, I dug into some vintage research to find out.

Homemade items, using the term loosely, might feature bacon- or dough-wrapped weiners (no, we did not just discover bacon), crackers and Cheez-Whiz, chips with onion soup dip and some kind of Jello concoction.
Packaged snacks started with potato chips by both national and regional brands, plus pretzels for the beer drinkers. Some oddball snacks started to crowd in, too, like Bugles, Funyuns and Doritos.
Carry out or delivery started with pizza, a Super Bowl staple to this day. In the mid-1960s it would have been pizza from the family-run pizzeria with handmade crust and local ingredients. You know, what we call “artisanal” today. Kentucky Fried Chicken was a probable favorite - fast, portable finger food.

Beer dominated by American brands like Schlitz, Budweiser and Pabst, but also plenty of regional brews like Rolling Rock, Carling Black Label and Hamm. Most Americans hadn’t been introduced to European beers, let alone Asian, Mexican or other exotic varieties. And craft brewing was something that largely took place in the basement of someone’s house.
Popular cocktails that might have fit the occasion included the whiskey old-fashioned, Bloody Mary, and gin or whiskey sour. The daiquiri and classic martini were in vogue, too, but they hardly seem fitting for a rough and tough sporting event.
For the kids, fruit punch, Kool-Aid or milk. The big soda brands hadn’t achieved their sugary beverage dominance just yet.

One thing that became clear as I did my research: the choices leaned hard on comfort food and convenience, so not very different from today.