St. Petersburg Times: Super Bowl XXXV
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Super Bowl XXXV Tampa, Florida 2001
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  • The Road to Super Bowl XXXV

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    Strap on the feed bag, the NFL has taken over the kitchen

    [Times photo: Bill Serne]
    Rene Brown and Redskins rookie LaVar Arrington cook Rice Krispies Treats at The Taste of Soul Player Cook-off.

    By TERRY TOMALIN

    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001


    YBOR CITY -- The St. Louis Rams had a secret weapon going into Super Bowl XXXIV: Grandma K's Bean Pies.

    "I ate them everyday growing up," tight end Roland Williams said. "They are good for you and good to you, so I had my grandma make enough for the whole team."

    Khalilah Abdullah, a k a Grandma K, made about 250 of the Navy bean pies for her grandson's teammates before they left for the big game in Atlanta last year.

    "When we ate 'em, we won, and when we didn't, well ... ," said Williams, a 6-foot-5, 269-pounder from Rochester, N.Y. "Must be the iron."

    But Williams isn't the only NFL player who will attest to the performance-enhancing power of "soul food."

    "How do you think my son got so big and strong?" said Lutisha Smith, mother of defensive end Neil Smith. "It's my cooking."

    Damon Jones, Shawn Barber, Darren Sharper, LaVar Arrington and Matthew Hatchette, all soul food afficionadoes, put their skills to the test at a cook-off Friday at the Full Moon Cafe.

    The Taste of Soul Player Cook-Off, sponsored by Pepto Bismol, benefited Buccaneers wide receiver Reidel Anthony's Reidel's Receivers and Mom II Moms, a support group for families who have lost children, founded by Edith Morgan, mother of late Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, who died after an auto accident last year.

    "I don't have time to really whip up my specialty," said Jones, a fourth-year tight end for the Jaguars. "So we might just have to settle for something quick like barbecue shrimp."

    It was difficult to move around the Full Moon's tiny kitchen, crowded with TV cameras, fans and family members, as the players tried to hustle up garlic potatoes, garlic crab legs and macaroni and cheese.

    "My specialty? I'd take (a date) to a fine restaurant," said Arrington, a rookie with the Redskins. "But if I have to cook, I would make something light, like a taco salad. It is quick and easy to make."

    But Arrington, one of the most dominating linebackers to play college football, would not give his exact recipe. "If I give away my game, then where would I be?" he said.

    Hatchette, however, a fourth-year wide receiver for the Vikings, offered a meal he said was guaranteed to please the women.

    "Start off with some marinated boneless chicken breasts, grilled, then served with some rigatoni in a light olive oil-garlic sauce," he said. "Then add a vegetable and some bread and you are set."

    Hatchette said mellow lighting and music will enhance the meal. "Simple, yet elegant, that's the key," he said.

    But one thing the Taste of Soul chefs hadn't quite learned was that real soul food takes time to prepare. But it didn't matter. A few doors down at Moses White & Sons Bar-B-Que, owner Gerald White had been cooking his collard greens since 7 a.m.

    "You have got to start early and clean them and cut them up good," White said. "Then we use a smoked turkey stock to cook them, and that's what gives them their trademark taste."

    In 1969, White's father, Moses, offered him $15,000 to run his restaurant in downtown Tampa.

    Over the years, Moses White & Sons has attracted its share of sports legends, including NFL greats Franco Harris and Jerry Rice on Thursday night.

    "We're packed all the time, Super Bowl or no Super Bowl," White said. "That's because we know the secret to good cooking. You've got to take your time."

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