University of Tennessee: The Volunteers

Appetizer: Queso with Tennessee Pride Sausage
Main: Fried Chicken
Dessert:  Banana Pudding
Cocktail:  Orange Crush

Happy 225th birthday to the University of Tennessee! Started in 1794 as Blount College with a tuition of just $8 per session, the UT system of schools now has a presence in all 95 Tennessee counties.

Since 1962 when a broadcaster used a boat to get to the football stadium in time for the game, “sailgating” on the Tennessee River has been a tradition. More than 200 boats drop anchor on the Tennessee River near Neyland Stadium before the game, earning this fleet the nickname Vol Navy.

The Vols’ men’s basketball team has a new warm-up ending tradition that has gone viral: one player dunks the ball while all his teammates jump. Nicknamed “One Fly, We All Fly,”, everyone from middle schools to NBA players and every Vol athletic team has a version. Check them out on Twitter at  #OFWAF.

The vibrant orange comes from the color of daisies that bloomed on the Hill (the oldest part of campus). Students and staff wear school colors every week, known as Big Orange Fridays, to support the Vols and Lady Vols teams.

While this Queso with Tennessee Pride Sausage may take a little more time than usual because you grate the cheese yourself, it’s worth it! (Pre-shredded cheeses usually have a potato starch that inhibits clumping, but that acts against you in the melting step of the recipe.) Also, the Tennessee Pride sausage gives this queso added flavor, so grab a bag of your favorite chips and dig in!

Fried chicken tends to be a staple in many southern homes, but finding the best fried chicken can divide a family. Choose your favorite —fast food, grocery store, or grandma’s recipe— and serve that for your next UT gathering. Chances are, there won’t be any leftovers.

While Banana Pudding does not have specific southern origins (other than the bananas making their way into the country through the port of New Orleans), since the 1950s the dessert has truly been associated with the south.  To connect it with Tennessee, one only has to attend the popular National Banana Pudding Festival in Centerville, TN, to see that the treat has made its way into the hearts and stomachs of many festival-goers.  With a live bake-off, a Puddin’ Path (a sampler of ten puddings made by local non-profits), and a pudding-eating contest, you’ll get your fill of the creamy goodness.

Well, we had to pick something orange for the Tennessee cocktail, of course.  Think of the Orange Crush as a screwdriver with extra flavor from the orange-flavored vodka and triple sec liqueur, plus a little fizz and bite from your favorite lemon-lime soda.

Located in Knoxville, you might want to drop by the Knoxville Whiskey Works for a bottle of their Tennessee Tailgate Orange Flavored Vodka to get the party started before the next home Vols game.

Also seen in enemy territory
For a throwback to simpler times, stop in Mast General Store where the candy is still in barrels. Grab a couple of Tennessee favorites, a MoonPie or a GooGoo Cluster. The store is filled with items you won’t find at your big box store.

The Knoxville Sunsphere is a free observation deck offering 360-degree views of the area, including the Smoky Mountains. Take an elevator ride up the 266-foot structure and enjoy the view from this tower that was the symbol of the 1982 World’s Fair. It sat vacant for years after the fair closed, but reopened in 2007 for the public.

More Tennessee cocktails

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