Eli Gold’s voice is one of the most recognizable on radio. He’s best known to Alabamians as the voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide, where he has called both football and basketball games since 1988. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he knew he wanted to be a sports broadcaster at an early age, and got a job selling peanuts at Madison Square Garden so he could be around the great sportscasters of the day. He’s announced NASCAR races and games for the Arena Football League, the NFL and the UAB Blazers. He is the author of several books, including From Peanuts to the Pressbox. He and his wife Claudette live in Birmingham, and their daughter, Elise, is a UA graduate. We caught up with Eli at the beginning of the 2018 football season. – Lenore Vickrey
In 2009, you said that the Alabama broadcasting job is the best in the business. After 30 years, do you still feel that way?
Oh, gosh, yes. It’s a spectacular position. This is a job that brings with it a lot of responsibility and scrutiny. I cradle this job in my hands like a rare piece of crystal. I don’t want to drop it, I don’t want to mess with it or cause it any harm or disrepair. You want to work for a program where people care, and that’s certainly true of Alabama where the fans are as passionate as you’ll find anywhere.
Do you have the same spotter who helps you?
Yes, Butch Owens has been with me for 30-some-odd years. We use a system of hand signals. Brian Roberts also does that on some occasions, and we have Jimmy Bank, who worked in Major League Baseball for 30 years. This year we have an all-new crew with former quarterback John Parker Wilson as our color man, and sideline reporter Rashad Johnson, who played for Alabama and in the NFL. Chris Stewart, who had been our sideline reporter, has been promoted to host of the show in the broadcast booth.
What’s a typical game day like for you?
It’s the same format for away games and home games. The variable is the time of the game. If it’s an early game at 11, we get to the stadium by 7 and are on the air at 8. If it’s a night game at 8, we’re on the air at 5. We get to the stadium no later than 3 or 3:30. We’ll sleep in as a crew, have lunch somewhere, get a decent meal, because that has to last us until 2 the next morning! Then we all get our routines going. After about 40 minutes on the air, I go downstairs and Coach Saban and I tape our pregame show about two hours before kickoff. That’s his deal. All the other coaches did it on Friday, but Coach Saban says this is the most important interview of the week because it’s the one that immediately precedes the game. He wants to give listeners the latest information. In Tuscaloosa, we do this in his private dressing area. On the road, I always search for a (quiet) area to do the show, not within earshot of the players.
What’s Coach Saban like to work with?
He’s all about preparing for the football game. He never stops. With other coaches, you could sit down and shoot the breeze with them for 30 or 40 minutes. He’s none of that. Now that said, if I need to talk to him I have full access. He’s a wonderful guy, he and Miss Terry. There are things he does, things for others, that he doesn’t want people to know. He doesn’t like to talk about it because that’s not why he does it.
Do you know (Auburn announcer) Rod Bramlett?
Yes, Rod and I are good friends, we talk a good bit. When he got the job, I was the first guy to call and congratulate him. His color man, Stan White, is my insurance man. Jim Fyffe (former AU announcer) and I were dear friends. We’d ride to the games together from Montgomery.
You’ve recounted your top 5 favorite calls for al.com. Your top call was the final play of the Georgia game for the national championship. That was fun to watch.
I had to eliminate some to get it down to five. I’ve heard from so many fans who agree wholeheartedly. Now will something like that happen this year? Who expected the end of the game against Georgia would be like that? That was remarkable.
You have part interest in Nino’s Restaurant in Pelham. What’s the best thing on the menu?
I personally love our seafood dishes, the Salmon Milano, the Seafood Primavera. Our pizza is to die for. Our calzones are wonderful. I like to go by and grab a chair and sit down with customers. I don’t get to go there as often this time of year because of football.
Whether you’re superstitious by nature or not, it’s hard to avoid this month’s focus on the otherworldly, and there’s no place better than the garden to focus our attention on myth and lore.
Considering how important plants and animals are to our very survival, it should come as no surprise that, over the eons of human existence, we’ve created an abundance of garden-related traditions and superstitions, many of which have become part of our vocabularies, if not our belief systems.
Knocking on or touching wood, which is supposed to help us avoid tempting fate by either warding off bad or encouraging good luck, is a case in point. The practice has been traced back to early Germanic pagans (however, many cultures and religions across the world and centuries share a similar practice), who believed that tapping or touching a tree summoned help from protective tree spirits.
Herbs, with their often aromatic and medicinal qualities, are perhaps the most superstition-laced plants. Take parsley for example. Because it can be difficult to grow from seed, gardeners of yore used to make three sowings — two for the devil and one for the gardener — and the ability to grow parsley from seed is supposed to be proof of a person’s honesty. However, bringing a parsley plant into a house is said to bring along bad luck, as does giving it away to someone, so if you want to share parsley with a friend, have them “steal” it from your yard.
While parsley may bring about some bad luck, other plants such as rosemary, ivy and snapdragons are thought to offer protection from evil spirits and curses, so they are welcome both indoors and planted near entryways to keep such problems at bay.
A superstition that I struggle with is the one that says we should never thank someone for a plant or cutting or the plant will fail to thrive or even die. It goes against my raising to not say “thank you,” but after I sent a thank you note for a lovely plant gift and then promptly killed the plant, I decided to be safe rather than sorry: These days I offer heartfelt thanks for the pot or the potting media rather than the plant, or simply say “I’ll really enjoy this.”
What we say to plants and other garden creatures is also considered important in garden lore. Cursing parsley or basil as you’re planting it is supposed to make it grow better. Peppers are said to be hotter and more prolific if you plant them when you’re angry. Talking to plants and bees is supposed to make both more productive, though bees reportedly prefer juicy gossip rather than polite conversation.
Want to protect your garden or home? Try some garden artifacts. St. Francis of Assisi and St. Fiacre statues are always nice, but so are garden gnomes, which protect gardens from pests and evil spirits. Gazing balls and windchimes ward off evil spirits, bottle trees repel and capture evil spirits and those gnarled and wizened green man faces channel ancient forest and nature spirits to watch over plants and homes.
The list of garden lore and superstitions could go on and on, including planting by the signs and other traditions still practiced today in every culture across the globe. To learn more about these intriguing and varied traditions and beliefs, a huge selection of books and articles can be found online and in bookstores and libraries, or ask your gardening friends about their practices and beliefs. Oh, and please share yours with me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Finally, if you want to spend time this month in a garden with otherworldly creatures, create your own superstition-influenced garden decorations or visit the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s Gardens of Myth exhibit, which features sculptures of mythical creatures — think fairies and dragons — created by artist Kendall R. Hart. (Learn more at hsvbg.org or by calling 256-830-4447.)
Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at email@example.com.
There are so many signals of fall, the sights, sounds and sensations that tell us autumn has arrived: the slant of sunlight filtered through leaves beginning to lose their green; the beat of school bands practicing for football halftime shows; the feel of crisp cool in the evening and early morning.
But in the last few years, a deluge of “pumpkin-spiced” dishes and drinks has dominated the seasonal shift, and as a side-effect, convinced some that the flavor of pumpkin spice — a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and clove — is synonymous with the flavor of actual pumpkin itself. It’s not. Pumpkin-spiced anything (latte, muffins, beer) has a taste akin to pumpkin pie, which includes pumpkin spice (or the afore-mentioned individual spices) on its ingredient list.
On their own, pumpkins have a distinct profile devoid of any “spice.” Their orange flesh has a light freshness (that can even be a bit bland), close to a sweet potato, but less sugary and less starchy. This semi-blank canvas works wonderfully when pureed, mixed with stronger flavors (like pumpkin spice) and baked in a piecrust. Hence the prevalence of pumpkin pie, the fall dessert that always makes this season’s “most popular” list, and all its offshoots.
But pumpkin is equally delicious in savory preparations. It is a species of squash after all. Chunks of pumpkin, dusted with a hint of chili powder or cumin and roasted till tender, pair nicely with all kinds of meat. Or throw them into a food processor, drizzle in some cream and make a pumpkin soup. Treat pumpkins like summer squash and shred, bread and fry them into fritters. And don’t forget those seeds. Tossed in oil, toasted and salted, they make an extremely craveable snack. Pumpkins also shine in desserts other than that ubiquitous pie.
If these options have piqued your interest in pumpkins and have you thinking about ingesting them in some new ways, check out our reader-submitted recipes.
Cook of the Month
About five years ago, when Sheila Copenhaver was looking for a way to use up some pumpkin she had on hand, she came up with her Creamy Pumpkin Soup recipe. The idea of pumpkin in a savory dish intrigued her. “You often think of pumpkin in sweet things, but its flavor pairs really well with the garlic, onion and other ingredients in this,” she said. “And of course, the bacon on top is wonderful.” She’s not the only one who thinks so. Her husband and three young kids request this soup and then gobble it up every autumn.
Creamy Pumpkin Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups cooked pumpkin
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Green onions, thinly sliced
In a large cooking pot, sauté onion and garlic in butter until tender. Add the broth, potatoes and pumpkin. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Puree with an immersion blender or puree (half of the mixture at a time) in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return all to the pot. Add the milk, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper. Heat through. Taste and season as needed. Spoon soup into bowls and top each with a dollop of sour cream, bacon crumbles and green onions.
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
2 tablespoons melted butter or oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon (pinch) ground cloves
1/2 cup oats
In a medium bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in another bowl, adding oats last. Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture just until combined. Heat a griddle or skillet over medium high heat, and lightly oil if desired. Pour 1/4 cup batter for each pancake, and cook on each side until brown. Serve with syrup. Makes 15-20 3-4-inch pancakes.
Christiane McKelvey, South Alabama EC
Buffalo Pumpkin Chili
2 pounds ground bison (or substitute beef)
1 quart tomato juice
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 large portobello mushroom, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 2.25-ounces can sliced olives
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Brown the bison (or beef) in a large pot, then add onions and mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes. Add everything else, bring to a boil then back to a simmer for 1 hour.
Jamie Petterson, Tallapoosa River EC
1 box yellow cake mix
1 14.5-oz can pumpkin
1 1/4 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cake mix and pumpkin on low speed of mixer until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spray mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon about 11/2 tablespoons dough into each hole. Bake for about 15-17 minutes. Makes 48 mini muffins.
Debra Adams, Black Warrior EMC
Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle
12 chocolate shortbread cookies, crushed into crumbs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
8-ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 large tub (12-ounces) whipped topping, thawed, divided in half
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
In a medium bowl, combine chocolate cookie crumbs and butter. Transfer into a trifle dish or large glass bowl. Gently press down crumbs to form an even layer of crust. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin, vanilla, sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Beat until well combined and creamy. Use a spatula to fold in half of the whipped topping. Gently combine ingredients until smooth. Spoon a layer of pumpkin cheesecake onto the cookie crust in trifle dish, followed by a layer of whipped topping. Repeat layers until your trifle reaches the top of your dish. Store trifle in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with mini chocolate chips.
Robin O’Sullivan, Wiregrass EC
Pumpkin Spice Sheet Cake
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
4 large eggs
1 box spice cake mix
15-ounce can pumpkin
8-ounce package toffee bits
In a large mixing bowl, mix together: cake mix, canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and eggs. Mix well, stir in 8-ounce package of toffee bits. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 28 to 33 minutes. Cool 1 hour.
8-ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
2 cups powdered sugar
Mix well and spread over cooled cake. Garnish top of cake with chopped Heath English Toffee candy bars.
Jane Kendrick, Coosa Valley EC
2 packages cream cheese, softened
1 15-ounce canned pumpkin
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
(Pumpkin pie spice can be used too)
Beat all ingredients together and chill one hour before serving. This dip is a crowd pleaser when served with ginger snap cookies. Graham crackers are also suitable for serving with this dip.
Joy Griswold, Dixie EC
Sticky Bun Pumpkin Muffins
2 cups pecan halves and pieces
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
2/3 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8-10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Stir together melted butter, sugar and corn syrup. Spoon one rounded teaspoonful butter mixture into each cup of 2 lightly greased 12-cup muffin pans and top each with 1 rounded tablespoon pecans. Stir together flour and next four ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in center of mixture. Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and 2/3 cup of water; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pans, filling ¾ full. Place an aluminum foil-lined jelly pan on lower rack to catch any overflow. Bake at 350 degrees on middle rack for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert pan immediately to remove muffins and arrange muffins on a wire rack to cool. Spoon any remaining topping over muffins. Cool 5 minutes. Yield: 2 dozen.
Tracey Estes, Pioneer EC
Pumpkin Pecan Pie
1 unbaked Pillsbury piecrust
1 15-ounce can pumpkin (not pie mix)
½ cup light or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, well beaten
½ cup evaporated milk
¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup pecans, chopped
Line pie tin with pastry, tucking overlap inward and pinch up edges. Using electric hand mixer, blend ingredients together in order listed. Add to pie crust and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 minutes and then sprinkle on mixture of: ¼ cup butter, ½ cup light brown sugar and ½ cup chopped pecans. Bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool and refrigerate a few hours to set well for slicing. If a ginger snap crust is preferred use 38 ginger snaps, ¼ cup finely chopped pecans mixed with ¼ cup melted butter.
Barbara Umland, Sand Mountain EC
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup warm milk
1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups white whole-wheat flour
2-2½ cups all-purpose flour
Dissolve the yeast in warm water with the teaspoon of sugar for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk, butter, brown sugar, salt, flax and pumpkin. Add whole-wheat flour and beat until well mixed, about 2 minutes. Add enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth or mix in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and turn to grease the top of the dough. Cover with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm place until double, about an hour. Punch down and return to floured surface. Roll out and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise again for about an hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 11-13 minutes until golden brown.
Carolyn Johnson, Sand Mountain EC
Send us your recipes for a chance to win!
Themes and Deadlines
December: Party Foods | Oct 8
January: Protein-packed | Nov 8
February: Pasta | Dec 3
Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124
Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year. One gift basket winner will be drawn monthly at random and each name will be entered only once. Items in basket may vary each month. To be eligible, submissions must include a name, phone number, mailing address and co-op name. Alabama Living reserves the right to reprint recipes in our other publications.
Last year, we spent our first winter in our new place, which is actually an older home. Even with the heat turned up, it always felt chilly indoors. This year, we added insulation, but we’re wondering if there are additional steps we can take to make the house more comfortable this winter. Can you offer any advice?
When we talk about comfort in our homes, we usually think about where the thermostat is set. But, as you’re finding, there’s more to the picture than just the indoor temperature.
An important piece of the comfort puzzle is radiant heat, which transfers heat from a warm surface to a colder one. A person sitting in a room that’s 70 degrees can still feel chilly if there’s a cold surface nearby, like a single-pane window, a hardwood floor or an exterior wall. Covering these cold surfaces can help. Try using area rugs, wall quilts or tapestries, bookcases and heavy curtains to help prevent heat loss and make your home feel more comfortable. Keep in mind, radiant heat can really work in your favor. A dark-colored tile floor that receives several hours of direct sun can retain heat during the day and radiate it into the room during the evening.
Another possible cause of discomfort during the winter is air movement. We recognize this when weather forecasts report chill factor, which is a calculation of air temperature and wind speed.
Moving air makes us feel colder, which is why we use fans in the summer. But during the winter, cold, outdoor air can infiltrate our homes.
On average, a typical home loses about half its air every hour, and that amount can increase when outdoor temperatures are extremely cold and the wind is blowing. In this case, the best way to keep your home toasty is to minimize air leaks. You can easily locate air leaks in your home with a blower door test, which is typically conducted by an energy auditor. These are some of the most common spots air leaks occur:
Penetrations and cracks around windows and doors
Exterior cracks in brickwork and siding
Plumbing and wiring penetrations from the exterior to the interior of the home
Mail slots or pet doors
A variety of products like caulk, weather stripping, outlet cover gaskets and dryer vent covers can be used to seal these leaks.
A fireplace can also be a major source of air leakage. If you don’t use the fireplace, you can seal the opening or install an inflatable chimney balloon. Before using the fireplace, consider this: unless you have a high-efficiency insert, your fireplace will suck heated air from the room out through the chimney. Always close the fireplace flue when it’s not in use.
Your pursuit of comfort should also include a careful look at your home’s heating system. Is it distributing heat evenly and efficiently? Forced-air systems distribute air through supply ducts and registers. Small rooms may only have one register, but large rooms could have several. You may find some supply registers are blowing copious amounts of warm air and others little at all.
Ideally, every room should have return air registers. If you see possible shortcomings with your forced-air system, enlist the help of a certified contractor that really knows how to improve ductwork.
Ensure your furnace is running at peak efficiency by scheduling an annual inspection. Check your filter monthly and replace or clean it as necessary. If you heat your home with radiators, bleed them at the beginning of the season so they flow more efficiently.
Beyond that, you can always warm yourself by wearing heavier clothing, doing some light exercise throughout the day, and snuggling with a pet or under a blanket.
By taking some of these small steps, I hope you will enjoy a more comfortable winter in your new (older) home!ν