Whether you love it, hate it, or just couldn't care less, the AFL Grand Final is about more than just footy. As the song suggests, "…it's more than a game".
For thousands of Australians, Grand Final day is a time for getting together with friends (lockdown permitting), enjoying some spring-time sunshine (weather permitting), and doing the one thing we all love most — eating (always permitted)!
Whether you're firing up the barbeque, gluing yourself to the TV to cheer on your favourite plant-based premiership player (Ben Brown, I'm looking at you!), or planning a full-on footy party with the family (human or furry — shout out to my niece and nephew, Lenny & Evie pictured below), here's the best (and simplest) footy food plan to ensure you're well prepared.
While I will forever sing the praises of a good tofu scramble, footy food is all about the quick and easy — which is why I'm not going to complicate things by recommending anything requiring more than the absolute minimum effort. If you've got to be dicing, stirring, whisking, or measuring, then it can sit this one out on the bench for the day.
Start your day off on the right...err...boot, by throwing a couple of hash browns in the oven and get your trusty sandwich press at the ready. When the hashies are a few minutes away from being the perfect crispy, crunchy, golden-brown, toast up an English muffin with your favourite dairy-free cheese. Add in a couple of slices of tomato — and if you enjoy a morning heart starter — a couple of pickled jalapenos. Once your cheese is just the right amount of gooey and melty, throw in your hash browns and voila! A perfectly tasty and acceptable start to your footy day!
Hot tip: If you're feeling a bit extra, you can add in some plant-based bacon to the mix. You can find the Made with Plants and Next brands at your local supermarkets. Both are real taste sensations, so whichever you get your hands on, you're in for a treat.
Whether your lunch is a small affair or a big ol' gathering, the game plan remains the same.
Australia is a barbeque-loving nation, so any chance to live our sausage sizzle fantasy without having to brave Bunnings on the weekend, or worse — crowds at polling booths on election day — must be savoured.
V2, Sanitarium, and Linda McCartney all have delicious veg sausages in their range, ready for grilling and laying in the cosy fold of a slice of white bread. Caramelised onion is a must here — with a healthy squirt of tomato sauce, of course!
Since you've already caramelised some onion and likely have some lettuce hanging about, don't forget your burgers. Beyond Burgers are the holy grail of the alt-protein world, but there are a ton of other plant-based burgers available. While many boast the same taste, texture, and mouthfeel of their animal counterparts, they're a great choice if you want to sink your teeth into the familiar and nostalgic tastes of your Friday night family dinners from your local chippy. As someone who is all about the veg, I'm a sucker for these veggie burgers from Get Vegged and Wildly Good. A generous slathering of egg-free mayo is highly recommended – as are pickles, to give you that classic burger crunch.
One of my favourite forms of entertainment is eating, so when that half-time siren rings out, you best believe my oven mitts are primed and ready. My food-motivated past self already pre-heated the oven between the first and second quarter, as well as undergoing the incredibly labour-intensive task of putting frozen snacks on an oven tray (I know, I know — I'm an inspiration!), so that allows for half an hour of precious snacking time. Fry's sausage rolls, Four 'N Twenty meat-free pies, bite-size veg tarts, and hot chips are all on the menu. They're quick, tasty, and far lower maintenance than a WAG getting ready for the Brownlow. All they need is the simple pairing of tomato sauce, and you're ready to go.
Given that your day has been full of hot potato, burgers, and pastry goods, you might want to add a little health into the mix. A handful of raw veg, chopped and ready for dipping in a hummus or a veg-based dip, might be just the palette cleanser you need. It will help to remind you that fresh and natural tastes and feels good, as well as helping you justify all the other things you ate, because...y'know...you did eat those carrots and broccoli that you smothered in smashed chickpeas. For this same reason, be sure to drink a juice at some point to bullet-proof your health argument 😉
When that final siren goes and you're either celebrating, commiserating, or finishing your 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of the scenic duck-filled lake you've been meaning to get round to for the last four months, you'll probably realise that it's dinner time and you haven't even thought about what to cook. If, like me, you are exhausted from the excitement of the day and need some time to rest and recover, listen to your body. Walking to the pantry and staring aimlessly won't get the job done — I found that out the hard way. Cut yourself some slack and order in. Local cafes and restaurants would love the support and usually have several plant-based options on the menu. Whichever cuisine you choose, add a fresh salad or a side of greens to wash away the sins of your carb-loaded, pastry-filled day. This is one definitely worth handballing over to your local restaurants – pun intended.
Whether you won, lost, or just enjoyed listening to the crowd's cheers, boos, and desperate cries of "Baaaallll", "Fifty metres", and "Out of bounds, on the full", it's safe to say that if you followed my advice, its been a good day.
While this might not be the healthiest day of eating you've ever had, it is the most footy-centric. And it is reserved purely for that one day in September, so just enjoy yourself. As I always say, "It comes but once a year...except that time there was a draw and it came twice" 😉