We've got the steam boys

We've got the team boys

So keep on fighting, don't give in

M-A-R-Y-L-A-N-D Maryland will win

HE REAL contest at last Saturday's Maryland-North Carolina football T game was not in Byrd Stadium at all. It was in the parking lot.

One fan called it "debauchery," another titled it a "pig-in," but the sponsors, the University of Maryland Terrapin Club, named it "Tailgate Saturday" -- an informal contest for 2,000 or so Terrapin fans to determine the best of the portable hospitality.

Pre-game feasts in stadium parking lots have brought new definition to the term tailgate, transforming a verb of harassment into a synonym for partying. Invented in the days of raccoon coats and hip flasks -- and still very popular in these days of parkas and six-packs -- tailgaters produce brunches as casual as ham sandwiches or as elaborate as suckling pigs. What started as a solution to the problem of getting to the game early enough to find a parking space has for some become as important as the game.

By 11 a.m. tailgaters were traipsing from car to car visiting fellow fans, with chicken thighs in one hand, bloody marys in the other. Grilled hot dogs and hamburgers frequently were the mainstay of the beer-and-pretzels crowd, but in between the hibachis there was some pretty serious eating.

One chicken enthusiast brought a wagon-sized cooker to fire his 35 four-pound broilers. The owner of Hyattsville's Ledo restaurant, Tommy Marcus, appropriately brought an array of Italian lunch meats. Columnist Robert Novak was the wine supplier for his party's shrimp, oyster and roast beef spread because he said his friends knew if they asked him to bring food "at the last minute I'd say I was out of town."

Then there were the ethnic and holiday-theme tailgaters. One couple decided to go the Mexican route, hosting a smorgasbord of tamales, guacamole, pinto beans and Mexican steak, brought in their '79 Lincoln they call "the chuckwagon." Thanksgiving dinner was served early for another group: fresh turkey, cider and cranberry sauce. ("We're gonna eat a football for Thanksgiving," said host Bob Fanto.)

And then, of course, there was the Terrapin theme: a cheerleader doll immersed to the waist in chocolate cake, the cake's message a Terrapin cheer. A vegetable dip in a hollowed-out, turtle-shaped bread. And turtle soup? "A sacrilege," pronounced one fan.

The winner of the competition, Paul Duchene of College Park, went all-out with his Winnebago, wearing a white tuxedo, playing a violin and "hiring" an aproned maid. The place settings on which his spread of meat and cheese fondue, vegetable tempura and chili were served were silver, not plastic.

While red-and-white ensembles and turtle necklaces and neckties were the uniforms for Terrapin tailgaters, a patch of baby-blue oxfords and Izods was a quick giveaway for a group of North Carolina Tar Heels. In keeping with the two teams' intense rivalry, the group was quick to point out the superiority of tailgating at UNC. "To get a parking space for a 1 o'clock game, we leave home at 9 a.m.," said one.

Trunks functioned as tables for those without proper tailgates. Bridge tables and folding chairs were used for the more elaborate sit-down affairs. There were woven tablecloths, candelabras and floral arrangements -- many done in Terrapin red-and-white. One group had even pitched a tent and gathered underneath, busily nibbling curry balls and smoked salmon dip.

The need to transport the food didn't seem to deter tailgaters. Hot items went from oven to trunk, heavily wrapped in aluminum foil, towels or newspaper. For the fortunate Winnebago owners, cooking was done on the spot.

By 1:15, only the celery remained in the bloody marys. Bridge tables were folded and leftovers were returned to the trunks. Fans would now be confined to the hot dogs, cokes and pretzels sold at the game -- which North Carolina won. But if one considered the pre-game parties, all was not lost.

In professional football, Minnesota Vikings fans are notorious tailgaters, and have celebrated with eight-piece bands in the parking lot, a Hawaiian luau and outdoor grilling in sub-zero temperatures. A couple of hard-core tailgaters even went so far as to get married in the stadium lot.

MINNESOTA VININGS DILL DIP (makes 2 cups) 1 tablespoon dill weed

1 teaspoon Beaumonde seasoning 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 1 tablespoon onion, chopped 1 cup sour cream 1 cup mayonnaise Dash of garlic powder

Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate overnight before serving. Serve with cut radishes, zucchini, mushrooms or other raw vegetables. From "Tailgate Cooking and Other Gastronomical Horrors"

MARGARETANNE CAMPBELL'S INDIAN CURRIED CHICKEN BALLS (Makes 35) One of the best from Terrapin parking lot "A." 4 ounces cream cheese, softened 2 tablespoons mayonnaise 1 cup chopped cooked chicken 3/4 cup sliced blanched almonds 1 tablespoon chutney 1 teaspoon curry powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup flaked coconut or 1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Beat cream cheese and mayonnaise until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients except coconut or peanuts. Chill for 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and form into balls about the size of a quarter. Roll balls in flaked coconut or chopped peanuts. Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight. From "South Bowie Women's Club Cookbook"

PENN STATE PASTA BOWL (6 servings) 1 pound small shell pasta 2 green peppers, cut up 1 small onion, diced 1/4 pound provolone cheese, cubed 3 celery stalks, sliced 12 cherry tomatoes, halved 1 cup pitted black olives 2 cups cooked meat (turkey, chicken, ham, pepperoni or salami)

Dressing: 1/3 cup oil 1 1/2 tablespoons salt 1/2 cup wine vinegar 1 tablespoon pepper 1 tablespoon oregano

Cook and refrigerate pasta. Add vegetables, cheese and meat to the pasta and stir. Combine dressing ingredients and pour over pasta mixture. Toss and cool. From "Cooking Around the College"