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A Greek-Style Tailgating Tradition At USC

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Among the wafting aromas of charred burger patties, cheap spilled beer and other traditional college football tailgating grilling fare perfuming the air at USC last Saturday, one garlicky, gamey smell was particularly enticing: the smell of grilled whole 35-pound lamb marinated with garlic, oregano, lemon, and olive oil, and roasted on a spit. This is how Ted Tarazi and Jack Stumpus tailgate for the USC vs. UCLA classic, and have been doing so for the last 20 years.

It's a post-Thanksgiving tradition that Jack and Ted started for the sake of sharing their zesty tender Greek lamb recipes -- both Ted and Jack are of Greek descent, thus they both grew up eating lamb in all forms, especially this style. "It's just a lot of fun, there are a lot of people that had never had lamb in their lives before," said Ted as he carefully carved a piece of crispy lemony, garlicky, peppery lamb skin with a little morsel of meat still attached.

While the procedure on game day is festive and seemingly easy, with a number of random inebriated USC students taking turns spinning the loaded spit and cheering anti-UCLA ballads for the duration of the cooking time, the actual preparation is long and labor-intensive. Thawing the frozen New Zealand lamb takes twelve hours on a hook. Then the marinade process starts, meaning somehow submerging the entire beast for at least five hours and stuffing the lamb with an innumerable amount of garlic cloves throughout the body. And finally the 8 a.m. sharp set-up time for Ted and his two teenage kids, not to mention the five hour cooking time. The good thing is that after two decades of doing this, they've got pretty much everything streamlined and locked down, including the required fire code precautionary measures.

Nonetheless, the results are always worth it: a buffet pan filled with moist, juicy and deeply seasoned lamb meat accompanied with an extra-diverse spread of sides that range from a a jumbo bowl of chunky guacamole brought by Jack and Ted's restaurateur friend to mint-spiked quinoa salad, and the usual huge platters filled with stuffed grape leaves, spanakopita, kalamata olives and briny cubes of creamy sheep's-milk feta cheese. All washed down with plenty of good beer and Metaxa, a 127-year-old Greek spirit made from muscat wine, rose petals, and Mediterranean herbs.

Jack and Ted's lamb has been auctioned off at charity events for $1,500 in the past. Though they don't consider themselves a catering service, they may be available for special occasions. If you are interested in finding out more, send them an email at tedtarazi@gmail.com.

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