Roll Tide and Happy Birthday

Tonight we’re watching Alabama football, and all is right in our world.

Yes, it’s Sunday. And yes, we’re watching the Alabama – San Jose State game for the second night in a row. But last night’s inaugural game was interrupted by the most delightful of things: the laughter of our favorite people, plates overflowing with homemade food, and sweet birthday wishes for my dear husband.

This is what makes cable so great, too … we get to enjoy the two things we love most about football: the fellowship (last night) and the game (tonight).

Price turned 25 yesterday and I love birthdays A LOT. A lot a lot. Birthdays mean cake, and planning surprises, and hosting parties, and all kinds of wonderful moments that give me the chance to say “I love you!” to my favorite people.

There’s this quotation from an article in my last issue of Food & Wine that has been pestering me all week as I’ve planned and menu-created and grocery-shopped and cleaned:

Looking out at the horizon, Psilakis poses a philosophical question. “Is gift-giving a selfish act?” he asks in his gravelly voice. “Dude, I’ve been thinking about this for 40 years. André Soltner [the legendary French chef] wrote that all chefs are gift-givers by nature. But if it brings you so much pleasure, are you doing it for others or for yourself?

“That makes me think of my mother’s food,” he continues. “It was a representation of love, and it made her happy. Was it for her or for us?”

Isn’t that perfect? And it makes me think. So when I make a meal, or a cake, or throw a party, is it for me or for the other person? And does it matter? If something that I love so much makes someone else so happy, then it seems like I must be doing something right. How often do we really get to do that? To do something we really, really love and have it be delicious and meaningful and feel so right? I don’t know, but it’s something that I’m pondering a lot right now.

Anyway, I love birthdays, and especially Price’s birthday because after 4 years together, I just know him so well. I know his favorite things, and I wanted his birthday to be the perfect combination of everything he loves: family, football, food. And beer.

On Wednesday night, I told him that I would pick him up from work early on Thursday for a SURPRISE. I love surprises (as long as I’m not the recipient of them), and this one had been planned for weeks:

The whole family (+ Dave) went to a Titans game! Price’s parents and younger brother came up from Alabama for the evening, and we surprised Price. It was perfect. Moments like these are priceless:

(This picture makes me weepy. It’s not a great picture, but it just means the world to let these boys have moments like these.)

Friday night, the party preparations began. I LOVE PARTIES. I come by it honestly, from my sweet grandmother who constantly hosted dozens of people at her home for every possible occasion. And I love it every bit as much as she did … and probably spend just as much money doing it. Oops.

Homemade pickles (a la Martha Stewart), to help combat the kudzu-like cucumber explosion in our refrigerator:

Then I rubbed down the 8 pounds of pork roast with a spicy-sweet blend of paprika, salt, garlic for an overnight rest in the fridge. Tyler Florence provided the guidance for my first foray into the world of barbecue (I don’t love barbecue, but it’s one of Price’s favorite things):

I made the first Roll Tide Red Velvet cake of the season, thanks to the ever-Southern Paula Deen:

Red velvet is not Price’s cake-of-choice for his birthday, but it’s hard for me to think about not having Roll Tide Red Velvet for a Bama party … maybe I’m a bit superstitious, but we won every game I made this cake for last season. (Granted, we won every game last season … but still: season opener v. Va Tech, SEC championship, and the National Championship there was Roll Tide Red Velvet. It just has to be there.

But since Price requested carrot cake for the birthday cake, I decided to make red velvet cake pops!

I mixed the cake with fresh cream cheese frosting:

And rolled them into these little cake balls, then stuck a lollipop stick in each and into the freezer they went for the night:

Saturday morning started early, as I baked the carrot cake before putting the pork roasts in the oven to slow roast for 6 hours. Then I ganached the tops of the cake pops, and decorated them with Alabama As:

So cute. And so delicious, they’ll make you an Alabama fan.

Not-as-cute was the carrot cake, which looks just like it would be perfect for a 16-year-old girl’s birthday. Lesson learned: make sure you have enough red food coloring on game day.

Desserts done, and then it was time to finish dinner. We had mango-jicama slaw … “jicama” is one of those funny words – and foods – that probably shouldn’t be mentioned unless someone asks. Oh well. I probably said “jicama” more times last night than I’ve ever said in my life, just trying to explain it.

Then the pork came out of the oven, and Price rejoiced:

Homemade barbecue sauce and kettle chips from the store rounded out our meal, along with a growler of “Bad Leroy Brown” from Blackstone.

The table was set, the football was on, the friends were gathered, and the night was perfect.

Roll Tide and Happy Birthday!

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