The truth about the Super Bowl snack stadium

Whether or not you've ever had the dubious pleasure of digging into a snack stadium, aka snackadium, surely you've seen these edible creations all over your social media feed in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday.

Instantly recognizable, these over-the-top stadium replicas composed entirely of snack foods are an odd cultural phenomenon that evolved from something that was initially created as a joke by a couple of college students to an epic Super Bowl party food that has spawned numerous how-to videos and DIY guides. The word "snackadium" is even currently under investigation for possible future addition to the Collins Dictionary.

The origins of the snack stadium

The origins of the snack stadium, as with many other Internet phenomena, are somewhat murky. Bon Appétit reports that, according to Google, the first one may have been built sometime in late 2008. By the time Super Bowl XLIV rolled around in February 2010, snack stadiums were enough of a known entity that the folks at Break.com built a three-story, 110,428-calorie monstrosity that the Los Angeles Times called "an ode to beer bellies and lap bands across America."

But the snack stadium that really set the Internet on fire was actually built back in 2009 by UC-San Diego student Scott Pham and his roommate (whose name, sadly, has not been etched into Internet lore). Pham and Mr. Anonymous built their stadium out of an estimated $50 to $100 worth of snack foods: guacamole for the field, cheese dip and salsa for the end zones, Cheetos and Doritos standing in for the fans, players made of Vienna sausages with cheese helmets, hot dogs and bacon serving as dividers to separate the fans from the field, and Rice Krispies treats forming the walls of the stadium itself.

Although Pham reported that their party guests, for the most part, chose to pass on this incredible edible replica, a photo he submitted in July 2010 to a now-defunct website called This Is Why You're Fat had everybody going crazy and soon spawned hordes of imitators (via The Daily Dot).

The evolution of the snack stadium

Once snack stadiums caught on amongst food bloggers, Pinterest queens, and Instagrammers, the competition ramped up to the point where snackadium creators were attempting to outdo one another with increasingly elaborate creations. Fans created snack food homages to their favorite stadiums, including a wing-filled, soda-dispensing version of U.S. Bank Stadium (via Sports Illustrated). Pillsbury issued a snackadium-building challenge to food bloggers and published the best of their creations, including a truly insane entry from Life Tastes Like Food that came complete with retractable bacon dome and beer can blimp. Even Andrew Zimmern got into the act, also constructing an edible U.S. Bank Stadium, but filling his version with gourmet treats including chicken satay, shrimp spring rolls, and his signature Canteen Dog.

There are also all-dessert versions of the snack stadium filled with cookies, cupcakes, and candies, all glued together with gobs of sweet  and sticky frosting. And of course, once mommy bloggers and fitness bloggers got hold of the concept, you even had the healthy snackadium featuring lots and lots of raw broccoli, cherry tomatoes, yogurt dips, and other mom- and trainer-approved snacks.

Should you build your own snack stadium?

If you're thinking of building your own snack stadium for Super Bowl Sunday this year, Bon Appétit suggests you do so well in advance of the big game so you'll have plenty of time to take pics before the ravenous hordes descend and all your hard work disappears into hungry bellies. Still, the magazine warns that your snack stadium probably won't photograph quite as well as, say, that last shot of latte art you Instagrammed. Your kitchen, after all, is not a photography studio, and anything of the size and magnitude of your snacktastic creation isn't going to fit so neatly into the frame.

If you don't want to spend hours on planning and construction, Amazon has a wide array of snackadium kits so all you'll need to do is add the snacks and you're good to go. If you just can't be bothered with anything so cutesy as a snackadium, though, know that you're in good company. Chef and "professional tailgater" Joe Cahn says he thinks it would be wasteful to spend hours building something that would only be demolished in a fraction of the time it took to create. Cahn, instead, opts for flavor over appearance, telling The Daily Dot, "Give me food a blind man can love."