In this periodic feature, we highlight books either about Alabama people or events or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight book-related events. Email submissions to email@example.com.
Poles, Wires and War: The Remarkable Untold Story of Rural Electrification and the Vietnam War
by Ted Case, $15.95 (history)
During one of the hardest chapters in American history, electric co-ops volunteered to win the war in Vietnam. They didn’t win the war, but in his new book, the author tells a riveting story of how they tried. He argues that the success electric co-ops had in the conflict that divided our nation just might have helped that southeast Asian nation recover more quickly by demonstrating the value of bringing electricity to the countryside.
What followed was a classic battle of enormous personalities, foreign and domestic political and military maneuvering, and a determined band of people who brought electricity to the American countryside, fighting the odds to bring light to a war zone halfway around the world.
Case creates a fast-paced narrative as crews race the collapsing war to pass bylaws, organize the co-ops and tangle with corruption, bureaucracy, in-fighting, and oh yes, Viet Cong soldiers determined to destroy what they were creating. In the end, in less than four years, three electric co-ops were bringing electricity to more than 8,000 members.
Here We May Rest: Alabama Immigrants in the Age of HB 56
by Silvia Giagnoni, NewSouth Books, $29.95 (current events)
Alabama’s 2011 Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, also known as HB 56, sought to criminalize the lives of undocumented immigrants. The law triggered lawsuits and brought widespread criticism; federal courts later gutted much of the bill.
Author Giagnoni, herself an immigrant, wrote the book to explore the needs and relationships of others who shared the experience of immigration. She frames the bill in larger political, social and cultural contexts to help explain the current sentiments toward new immigrants in Alabama.
Once in a Blue Moon
by Vicki Covington, John F. Blair, Publisher, $26.95 (novel)
Against the background of Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign, a group of struggling individuals are thrown together, tenants of a benevolent landlord in a Birmingham, Ala., neighborhood that has seen better days. The neighbors form their own brand of community, lifting each other up and bringing hope for a better future back into their lives.
The author, who grew up in Birmingham, asks questions about family, faith, race, class, and ultimately, hope.
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry: Auburn Vs. Georgia
by Douglas Stutsman, Arcadia Publishing and The History Press, $21.99 (Southern sports history)
The rivalry between Auburn University and the University of Georgia began in 1892 and has largely been a competition more brotherly than bitter. According to one legend, Auburn’s “War Eagle” battle cry originated at the first game between the two schools. Renowned UGA coach Vince Dooley graduated from Auburn, while Auburn coach Pat Dye was an All-American at UGA.
Journalist Stutsman recounts the unforgettable games, moments and personalities on the 125th anniversary of the Deep South’s oldest rivalry.
These cheese-centric dishes are sure to make you smile
When you hear that a casserole or a dip is cheesy, that’s good. You happily pay more for extra cheese on a pizza. When someone wants you to smile for a photo, they tell you to say “cheese,” knowing that the word alone will bring such joy to your heart that it will shine through on your face. (And also, the way you must move your mouth to form the word forces it in the direction of a smile. But the word “fleas” would do the same thing, and you don’t hear photographers using that prompt.)
The point is, the word cheese and its variations are often positive. Until they’re not. If someone tells you a lampshade, television show, outfit or anything not food-related is cheesy, that’s negative. So how and when did this use of the word enter our lexicon?
A quick Internet search reveals several possibilities, but most trace its origins back to England in the mid- to late-1800s, when the word “cheese” moved from slang denoting wealth to a derogatory word for something or someone that was “showy” or “gaudy.”
Over time, its meaning has broadened. Folks today can use it as described above, but also as a synonym for tacky, sappy, inauthentic and more. And the term is highly subjective. What one person deems cheesy could just as likely be adorable, sentimental, fashionable or funny to someone else.
No matter what things outside of the food world earn the title “cheesy” in your book, when it comes to eating, we flip the adjective back to affirmative, so much so it’s a safe bet that most of us don’t just say “cheese, please,” but “more cheese, please.”
And as our taste buds know and some of our reader-submitted recipes show, you really can’t have too much cheese.
Cook of the month
Harper Reed, Tallapoosa River EC
Ten-year-old Harper Reed has always been interested in cooking, thanks to his family. “We have a small organic farm and grow a lot of our own food,” his mom Anna says. “And his dad does most of the cooking and always has the kids in the kitchen helping out.”
His Cheese Buttons are treats he developed while cooking with his grandmother, and they offer a fresh take (and shape!) on the classic cheese straw with the addition of Rice Krispies. “He just loves them, and we all love the crunch from the Krispies,” Anna says. “It’s different.”
Harper knew the recipe was a hit with his loved ones, but he didn’t think about submitting it until his mom suggested he practice his typing skills. “I thought he could type up some recipes to brush up, and if they were typed, why not send some in to the magazine.” So he did.
He was both surprised and thrilled to be named Cook of the Month. “He’s so excited,” Anna said. “It means a lot.”
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated, at room temperature
2 cups plain flour
½ pound butter, melted
½ teaspoon red pepper
2 cups Rice Krispies
Sprinkle of salt
¼ cup chopped pecans
Sprinkle flour on cheese and pour on melted butter. Add red pepper. Add Rice Krispies to mix, and knead by hand until well blended. Roll into marble-sized balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Flatten with fork. Sprinkle with salt and chopped pecans. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Cut oven off and do not open door for two hours. If they become soft they can be heated in a 200-degree oven for a few minutes.
Tangy Cheese Ring
1 pound grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped pecans
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1⁄8 teaspoon garlic juice or garlic paste
1 small jar of strawberry preserves
Mix all ingredients and make into a circle and pour the preserves in the middle. Serve with your favorite crackers.
Jill Coale, Wiregrass EC
1 package of mushrooms, stemmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean mushrooms. Place them in a dish, cup side up, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in oven 12 minutes. Microwave the cream cheese until soft and mix in bacon. Remove mushrooms from oven, sprinkle with salt and pepper, turn them over and salt and pepper again. Stuff mushrooms with cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake 5 more minutes.
Summer Watson, Cullman EC
12 slices white light bread
6 teaspoons mayonnaise
12 slices cheese
2 cups milk
1 package cracker crumbs
2 cups cooking oil
Spread mayonnaise on six slices of the bread. Place two slices of cheese on top of the bread and top with the remaining bread slices. Cut each sandwich into triangles. In a mixing bowl, beat egg with milk. Dip each triangle into the milk-egg mixture and then dredge in cracker crumbs. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Fry each triangle until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Julia C. Fleming, Southern Pine EC
Cheddar Salsa Biscuit Bites
1 2/3 cups self-rising flour
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup salsa
¼ cup margarine, melted
¼ cup water
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Generously spray large cookie sheet with vegetable spray. In a large bowl, combine flour and cheese; mix well. Add salsa, melted margarine and water; stir until just combined. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough gently just until smooth. Press or roll out dough to 12-inch by 6-inch rectangle. With sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 2-inch by 1-inch strips. With thin spatula, place strips about ½ inch apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake 11-13 minutes or until light golden brown. Serve warm. Yields 36 biscuit bites.
Peggy Key, North Alabama EC
Three Cheese Fondue
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
8 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons flour
Dash hot sauce
1 12-ounce bottle of good beer
Pinch of salt and pepper
Granny Smith apple slices
Soft German pretzels
Sourdough bread pieces
Combine all ingredients. Heat over low heat, stirring until melted through. Keep warm and dip apples, pretzels and bread pieces.
Kirk Vantrease, Cullman EC
1 six-count package English muffins
2 cups shredded cheese, any kind
1 cup mayonnaise
1 bunch green onions, chopped fine
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Slice each muffin in half and place on an ungreased, foil-lined baking sheet. In large bowl, hand mix the cheese, onions, garlic salt and mayonnaise. Evenly divide the mixture onto each muffin half. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven. Cut each muffin into four pieces and serve.
Linda G. Morton, Pioneer EC
South of the Border Cheese Pasta
1 pound pasta (can use elbow, penne, ziti or your favorite macaroni)
1 16-ounce jar cheese sauce
2 cups tomato salsa (mild, medium or hot)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, cover and set aside. In large saucepan, combine cheese sauce, salsa, and ½ cup Parmesan cheese. Heat through, stirring until well mixed. Add cooked pasta to cheese mixture, stir. Put in casserole dish and sprinkle with remaining ½ cup Parmesan cheese. Bake 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Janice Bracewell, Covington EC
Coming up in October…Pies!
Please send us your original recipes, developed by you or family members, and not ones copied from a book or magazine. You may adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.
Editor’s Note: Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe.
It looks like we’ll be needing to replace our furnace soon, and we’re wondering if a heat pump would help us save some money. Do you have any suggestions?
An electric air source heat pump can be a good alternative to a furnace system that runs on propane or fuel oil. A heat pump is also a cost-effective alternative to electric resistance heat that is used in electric furnaces and in baseboard and wall units.
How heat pumps work
In the summer, an air source heat pump acts as an air conditioner (AC) that draws heat from your home’s air and transfers it outside. In the winter, the system’s direction is reversed so that heat is pulled from the outside air and moved into your home.
The heat pump has two major components: the condenser (also called the compressor) that circulates refrigerant through the system; and an air handler that distributes the conditioned air. Most heat pumps are split systems, with the condenser located outside and the air handler inside. A packaged system contains both components in one unit that is placed outside your home. Heat pumps usually distribute the hot or cold air through the duct system. Ductless mini-splits, which can serve as many as four rooms, will be covered in next month’s column.
In the past, heat pumps weren’t efficient enough to work in colder climates. In recent years, however, technology has advanced to make them viable in climates with long periods of sub-freezing temperature, such as the Northeast U.S.
If your old furnace has an air conditioner (AC) attached, replacing both the heating and cooling system with the all-in-one solution of a heat pump might produce significant cost savings. If you are currently cooling with window units, or have an older central AC, moving to an air source heat pump could reduce your summer energy bills.
Heat pumps not only reduce energy costs, they can also eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and problems that can occur with on-site storage of propane or heating oil.
Heat pumps must work harder to extract heat as the outside temperature drops. At some point the heat pump switches to resistance mode, which operates the same way a toaster or an electric baseboard heater works. If your area has very cold winters, you should consider a dual fuel system, which utilizes a heat pump along with a gas or propane furnace.
Selecting and installing
If you live in a cold climate, look for a unit with a higher HSPF rating, which measures heating efficiency; if you live in a warm climate, you probably want to focus more on the SEER rating, which measures cooling efficiency. The minimum standard heat pump is SEER 14 and HSPF 8.22. An easy way to compare options is to look for the ENERGY STAR® label. This indicates the unit is at least 15 SEER and 8.5 HSPF3. Visit www.energystar.gov to learn more about equipment, installation and qualified contractors.
How much can a heat pump reduce your energy costs? This depends upon the size and efficiency of your home, local energy prices and local climate. You can find calculators online that can help you predict energy savings. One entry with sample data found that the cost of heating in South Carolina, using a new heat pump and national average fuel costs, was less than half the cost of heating with a typical propane furnace or an electric resistance system.
Energy auditors can predict energy savings with greater precision, and they can offer advice on choosing a specific brand and size of the unit. More importantly, energy auditors can suggest other ways to improve comfort or reduce energy use such as duct sealing or insulating the building envelope.
Your local HVAC dealer, if they have heat pump experience, can be very helpful. Many heat pumps are not installed correctly, so be sure to ask how they will ensure a quality installation. Contact your local electric co-op to find out what they recommend. They may even offer rebates, free audits or discounted rates for electric heat.
Patrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
You can argue, as many do, that in different parts of our nation different sports are more special (Indiana and basketball come to mind) but down in Dixie, football has few competitors.
Now, I’ll grant you that NASCAR runs football a good race – pun intended.
NASCAR is a sport with roots in the pleasures of regular folks, of which we have a bunch.All along a line beginning around Birmingham and running up into Virginia, a line that followed the hardscrabble farms and mill towns of the Piedmont, folks souped up their beat-up cars and ran whiskey from still to town.And when they weren’t racing “revenuers” they raced each other.
On the other hand, football began as the sport of Southern elites – the ones who could afford college. And there weren’t many of those.
But once it got started (in 1877, Washington and Lee took on Virginia Military Institute in the first football game in Dixie) it did not take long for the sport to filter down to high schools.
It helped that football enjoyed a seasonal advantage. Cotton was picked, tobacco harvested and corn pulled, so country kids and town kids could play together. Class distinctions blurred.
Lots of folks participated. Eleven on a team. Substitutions were frequent. And there were auxiliary groups – cheerleaders, bands, pep clubs – which made football a true school event.
Football was also a measure of a community.
How do you know local schools are good? The football team is a winner.
Where is evidence of civic pride? In the stands on Friday night.
The sport drew in parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends of the family, and just plain fans.
The following was equally intense among African Americans, for in the pre-integration South, teams and schools were the pride of the black community.
The advent of radio spread the game even more. The University of Alabama’s 1926 Rose Bowl victory put Dixie on the map, especially in the minds of Southerners.
Other events further broadened football’s appeal – the GI Bill sent more Southern boys and girls to college where they developed institutional loyalties that included loyalty to a football team. Then came TV. When ABC began broadcasting football, the pageantry and excitement was beamed right into Dixie’s living rooms.
Come September, everything fell into place.At the end of the work-week, small towns across the South closed down for the high school game, and on Saturday afternoon friends (and foes) gathered around the TV to watch a college contest.
Football also followed the trajectory of Southern history. In 1970, when an integrated University of Southern California football team whipped the Crimson Tide, that defeat, (according to Alabama assistant coach Jerry Claiborne) “did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 20 years.” Of course, integration was more complicated than that, but when football fans at white schools began to believe that winning was more important than segregation, segregation didn’t stand a chance.
So, it seems to me, because of football, Dixie is a better place than it might have been.
November Theme: “Heirloom Quilts”Deadline for November: September 30
Submit photos here, or send color photos with a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Photos, Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124
Rules: Alabama Living will pay $10 for photos that best match our theme of the month. Photos may also be published on our website and on our Facebook page. Alabama Living is not responsible for lost or damaged photos.
Over the next two issues, I would like to share with you some common Social Security questions I receive on a variety of topics and my answers.
Question: My child, who gets Social Security, will be attending his last year of high school in the fall. He turns 19 in a few months. Do I need to fill out a form for his benefits to continue?
Answer: Yes. You should receive a form, SSA-1372-BK, in the mail about three months before your son’s birthday. Your son needs to complete the form and take it to his school’s office for certification. Then, you need to return page two and the certified page three back to Social Security for processing. If you can’t find the form we mailed to you, you can find it online at: www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ssa-1372.pdf.
Question: I’m trying to figure out how much I need to save for my retirement. Does the government offer any help with financial education?
Answer: Yes. For starters, you may want to find out what you can expect from Social Security with a visit to Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. The Financial Literacy and Education Commission has a website that can help you with the basics of financial education: www.mymoney.gov. Finally, you’ll want to check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which offers educational information on a number of financial matters, including mortgages, credit cards, retirement, and other big decisions. Visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at www.consumerfinance.gov.
Thirty-two of Alabama’s 46 rural hospitals are operating at a loss. That’s according to information recently developed by iVantage Health Analytics for the National Rural Health Association. Six rural Alabama hospitals have closed since 2009, tied with Georgia for the most closures in any state. An additional 14 rural Alabama hospitals have been identified as being at risk of closure.
Simply by being there, rural hospitals attract additional health care services and provide vital economic development opportunities for their service areas. With 41 of Alabama’s 67 counties projected to lose population between 2010 and 2040, our rural areas cannot afford a more threatened economic future by losing their local hospital.
The struggle to keep rural hospitals open is very complex. Rural hospitals receive lower reimbursement for the same service than hospitals in more urbanized areas. This poses a constant financial challenge. Continuing to offer health care services, such as obstetrics, that consistently cost more to provide than is reimbursed, is very important to the perception of local health care. Such consistent losses cannot be sustained forever.
In addition, government programs and private insurance have established admission and length of stay requirements that place many rural hospitals in a position of having daily inpatient censuses below the number of beds available for inpatient services.
Rural hospitals do not exist only to serve the local population. They provide a front line of health care defense for residents and visitors going through our rural areas who need immediate and critical health care services.
In response to financial threats, some rural hospitals are being innovative in welcoming and developing new sources of revenue. The Bibb Medical Center in Centerville and its administrator, Joseph Marchant, are an example. This medical center has 35 authorized beds with an average daily inpatient census of around 14 or 15.
This facility operates an affiliated rural health clinic to offer patients an option to the emergency room where care and reimbursement options may better benefit the patient and hospital. Approximately 24,000 primary care encounters were seen in this clinic last year. There is also an affiliated 131-bed nursing home with a current 92 percent occupancy rate.
However, this facility has established a 79-unit senior retirement community as a part of the hospital campus with 100 percent occupancy and a waiting list. This service has long-term benefits for the medical center since the majority elect to become residents in the affiliated nursing facility when independent living is no longer possible.
Residents are typically 55 or older and have underlying health care needs that prompt them to live near a medical center. The garden homes and apartments are available at highly impressive rates that include utilities, high definition Direct television, and lawn care. Other services such as meal delivery, laundry, etc. are available on a fee-for-service basis. Local physician care, dental care, Federally Qualified Health Clinic services, the cafeteria, and other services are readily available for community residents. The hospital offers health care advice and assistance in matters such as Medicare plan selection.
In addition to a new revenue stream that contributes to the financial stability of the medical center, the services of this retirement community are resulting in savings to individuals, families, and programs by delaying long-term facility residence for several years.
Another new revenue stream involves its cafeteria service, now named the Cahaba Lily Café, which has become one of the community’s favorite eating establishments, serving more than 24,000 non-patient meals last year.
With an uncertain reimbursement future, our rural hospitals and medical centers are encouraged to respond with innovation by developing additional revenue streams that may make the difference between remaining open or closing.
Dale Quinney is executive director of the Alabama Rural Health Association, 1414 Elba Highway, Troy, 36081.
College mascots say life behind the mask rewarding
They lead us in victory, console our defeats, and comfort with unwavering support. They are the mascots of college football. Requiring good grades, excellent physical conditioning, and the ability to ham it up in front of thousands, life is challenging in mascot mania. But life is good for those who don the suit. They love it. Here are some of Alabama’s favorites.
Blaze the Dragon
It’s not easy being green. It’s not easy walking on campus with wings and a tail either. But at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Blaze the Dragon does just fine. UAB’s reptile of renown originated in 1995. But the name “Blaze” was predestined, from 1978, after the school’s sports teams were nicknamed by student vote. “They tried other mascots,” recalls Ryan Martin O’ Connor, coordinator of cheerleaders. “We considered a rooster, and Viking, but finally felt Blaze was best.”
She adds, “No mascot has a suit like ours. The wings are huge and if not careful, his tail can knock you down.” He has to be very careful in a crowd. And he is always in a crowd. Everybody wants to be around him. And Blaze rocks. “Most people think mascot performers are extraverts,” says Ryan, “but that’s not necessarily the case. Many are more comfortable in the suit than out of it when it comes to performing crazy antics.” For a bulky winged serpent, this leaping lizard can cut the rug. Blaze owns the dance floor. UAB sources confirm, when performing “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae,)” no dragon is better.
Named by University of Alabama student vote in 1979, Big Al the elephant is one of the most recognized sports mascots in America. His first public appearance was at the 1980 Sugar Bowl. Today he appears everywhere.
“When donning the elephant suit you become more than a mascot,” explains Big Al coordinator and former Alabama cheerleader Jennifer Thrasher. “You are an ambassador of the University. You must represent us in a positive way.”
Bama’s elephant is known for football games but sports are just part of the job description. He makes hundreds of public appearances annually and encounters situations from jubilant to sadness. “Big Al visits a lot of children’s hospitals,” Thrasher says. She related one such visit: a young child stricken with cancer too weak to offer little more than a feeble smile.
“Big Al sat at the little girl’s bedside, quietly holding her hand in silence,” Thrasher says. Later in private, the mascot removed the elephant head, revealing a college student with tears streaming down her face.
And then there is game day. “Every time you put on that massive head you are part of something bigger than you,” recalls Justin Sullivan of Nashville, mascot from 2011 to 2016. “I had no experience when selected as Big Al. I went from nothing to Bryant Denny Stadium, in front of 150,000 people. Even today it seems surreal.”
SouthPaw and Miss Pawla
Love is in the air at the University of South Alabama, Mobile: SouthPaw and Miss Pawla are engaged, in a classic tale of jaguar romance.
OK, it’s probably the only tale of jaguar romance, but earlier this year, at a USA pep rally, SouthPaw proposed to fellow jaguar mascot, Miss Pawla. She nodded yes. The affirmative came as little surprise because Miss Pawla has flirted with SouthPaw since she has known him, just like she does with most males. It is who she is and part of why USA loves them both.
“South Paw is the strong silent type,” says USA Cheer Coach Bre Kucera. “He is athletic, 7 feet tall, and dresses in accordance with the sporting event represented.” Pawla is shorter and a prissy–flirty feminine feline. They are cool cats, and in South Alabama, “cool” is not easy.
“It takes heat endurance to be our mascot,” Kucera says. “A football game down here can be 100 degrees on the field.” Try being in that heat totally encapsulated in simulated jaguar fur.
Not a problem for SouthPaw and Miss Pawla, because love conquers. And the only heat these two are concerned with are the warm hearts they have for each other.
Cocky the Gamecock
For the last five years, Niki Martin has been Cocky the Fighting Gamecock of Jacksonville State University. Martin graduated in April, relinquishing her title as rooster with an attitude. But as all costumed performers say, even after you’re gone, the mascot lives on.
“Oh yes, I was a crying mess,” Martin laughs, about giving up her feathered friend. “But it has been so rewarding. To put a smile on someone’s face, even for five seconds, helps them and helps me.”
Cocky goes beyond mascot. This bird is hilarious. “He is always in trouble, always doing something he should not be doing,” adds head cheer coach Dave Almeita. “That’s why people love him.” But despite the rooster’s rants, no one cries fowl.
“He’s a prankster but not a jerk,” Martin says. “After pulling a joke on someone, I always offered a handshake or hug, to show it’s all in fun.” Martin is credited for developing Cocky’s signature strut and personality. “Cocky is the guy the girls love and the guys want to be like,” she says.
Few people know for the last five years Cocky was a woman. Even less know Cocky was Martin. When asked what is it like being famous yet anonymous inside a mascot suit, Martin says, “It’s like being Clark Kent and knowing you are Superman.”
Tuskegee’s Golden Tiger
Herschel Freeman has a dilemma. He loves children but also portrays the feisty Golden Tiger for Tuskegee University. Kids and giant cats don’t often mix and Herschel is caught in the middle.
“It happens at almost every game,” the sophomore business major and mascot says. “I’ll be standing there in the costume and here comes a parent with a baby to thrust in my arms for a picture.” The child is terrified.
“Mascots can’t talk in uniform,” Freeman laughs. “But sometimes I want to shout to the dad, Oh, come on, man! I’m a 6-foot tiger standing on two legs! What do you expect this baby to do?”
Like all good mascots, Freeman excels at reading situations. “I always let young children approach me. I don’t walk up to them.” And though he cannot speak, “I nod and make gestures. With experience, you become good at it.” Also like all good mascots, actions speak louder than words.
Aubie the Auburn Tiger
In 1979, Auburn University student Barry Mask was selected as the first Aubie the Tiger. “I wanted Aubie to be four things,” recalls Mask, who today is a Montgomery banker. “He had to be a good dancer, prankster, a ladies man, and love children.” Oh, how the tiger roared.
Today Aubie holds 9 UCA National Championships, more than any college mascot. He was the first inductee into the Mascot Hall of Fame, and is a state legend.
The 1979 Iron Bowl solidified Auburn’s mascot as a cat to reckon with because, of all people, Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
During the pre-game, Coach Bryant leaned against a goal post. Barry was Aubie. Wearing a crimson jacket and houndstooth hat, just like Alabama’s coach wore, Aubie sneaked up behind Bryant.
Curious as to why the crowd was cheering, the Bear turned to the Tiger, and did a double-take. Barry remembers, “In front of thousands, I was face to face, looking into squinting steel blue eyes of a legend glaring back at me.”
Seconds later, Coach Bryant’s stare transformed into a smile. Pointing at the tiger’s houndstooth headwear, he chuckled, “Nice hat, Aubie,” and walked away.
Aubie has been cutting edge ever since. Mask, who later served in the Alabama House of Representatives, occasionally meets current mascots, and offers advice: “If you are not pushing the limits, you are probably not a good Aubie.”
T-Roy, Trojan of Troy
All hail mighty T-Roy: Warrior of the Wiregrass, gladiator of goodwill, and Trojan of Troy – now new and improved.
“He has a new and improved head and facelift,” says Kyle George, Troy University’s associate athletic director for marketing and sales. T-Roy first appeared in the mid-1980s. The upgraded one was seen throughout Alabama this summer on a state tour, but his official debut is September 9 at Troy’s first home football game.
The big noggin now allows better visibility through the eyes and improved neck support for the mascot’s interior human. And not a moment too soon. Because when it comes to big man on campus, T-Roy rocks.
“One cool thing about mascots is they can go where a live person can’t,” adds Kyle. “They lift spirits and make people happy just by being around them.” The red-capped wonder frequently appears at children’s events, birthday parties, hospitals, alumni gatherings and almost anywhere his schedule allows.
But he walks a fine line between muscle-bound warrior and helmeted loveable softie. T-Roy is a powerful warrior through and through but a friendly one. He is stern yet fun. Toddlers are as comfortable with him as adults.
Typically, three to 5 students are helmet–ready at any given time. One wears the suit. The others attend the mascot. They are trained in the ways of Troy and Trojan spirit, ready to lead in battle or hug sweet babies.
See ya’ later, gladiator.
Here’s to those who push the limits, wear the suits, and bring fantasy to life for the joy of all the fans of College Town, Alabama.
Alabama-made sauces perk up meats, veggies and more
Even most novice cooks know that marinades and sauces are easy and effective ways to amp up the flavor factor of a variety of foods. Meats, seafood and veggies all benefit from a pre-cooking soak and a slather, sprinkle or dip afterwards.
Lots of folks like to make their own, but there are plenty of Alabama-made products to choose from, too. These tasty options range from classics like salty steak saturators to innovative creations that rely on more exotic influences. Here are a few favorites from around the state.
Since he was old enough to eat table food, Jim Berdeaux has been enjoying the thick, tangy steak sauce and the tomato-based, slightly sweet barbecue sauce his grandfather whipped up when he was the chef at Montgomery’s Pickwick Café in the 1940s.
“We made his sauces for every family get-together, and when I was in the paper business, I started making them and giving jars to clients as gifts,” he says. Once the sauces were tasted outside of the Berdeaux family, the positive response was overwhelming.
When he retired from the Air Force, Jim decided to base a business on the recipes (and the clamoring requests for them) and created Berdeaux’s Sauces in 2010. The company is based in Montgomery, and the sauces are made in Chancellor, Ala.
Today, in addition to the steak and barbecue sauces, Berdeaux’s produces Sweet Island Dipping Sauce, a lively blend of pineapple and pungent horseradish. All the sauces are completely natural, with no MSG, high-fructose corn syrup or liquid smoke, a point Jim’s really proud of. “My sauces’ purity is what makes us stand out,” he said. “You can taste the difference.”
Get some: At shows and special events around the South, specialty stores in central Alabama like Derk’s Filet & Vine, Queen’s Steaks ‘N Wines, Tucker Pecan and more and online at berdeauxsauces.com.
Pilleteri’s Liquid Marinade was born out of necessity. The patrons of owner Charles Pilleteri’s Birmingham butcher shop and deli, Mr. P’s, wanted something to flavor the steaks and chops they bought from him, and so he created a dry seasoning blend and then a robust marinade based on the same flavors.
“The original inspiration came from a Montgomery butcher shop that’s now closed, but I modified the recipe and added my own spin,” he says. The dark marinade is low in sodium (only 17 percent), yet it has just the right sharp, salty punch, with notes of garlic, black pepper and Worcestershire too. Charles has since added other sauces (hot sauce and wing sauce) and products like rubs and seasonings, but the original marinade is still his bestseller. He’s now also distributing other Alabama-made sauces, like Ollie’s Bar-B-Q sauce.
Get some: at Mr. P’s Butcher Shop and Deli, 813 Shades Crest Road in Birmingham; select Publix, Food Giant and Piggly Wiggly locations; and online at pilleteri.com.
Super Turnip Green
Super Turnip Green Pepper Sauce is one-upping the bottles of soggy, faded-green peppers that are standard sights on tables at Southern restaurants. With its Serrano pepper base, it’s sweet on the front end, combusts with a pop of well-rounded heat in the middle and ends with a blast of vinegar zipping across your tongue, combining the sensations into an unforgettable bite.
The sauce’s namesake and mascot, a Southern hero named Super Turnip Green (STG) – who sports overalls and a full-face mask – is just as memorable, and that’s by design, as Drew Folsom, owner of the Birmingham-based company (and STG’s “agent”), explains.
“The sauce is all about a love of South, Southern foods and the country lifestyle, and STG embodies that. He’s a good ole country boy with just a little edge.”
Legend says the sauce recipe is STG’s, but that he wanted to keep his identity a secret, so he gave it to Folsom to bottle and sell. True or not, one thing is certain: Just a few dashes of this concoction added to anything from greens and peas to fish and fried chicken (STG’s favorite way to use it) will wake up your food’s flavor potential.
STG just launched a new product, Super Turnip Green Presents: Colt Ford Pepper Sauce, a fiery, full-bodied liquid created by country music artist Colt Ford.
Get some: in select Winn-Dixie, Piggly Wiggly and Western Supermarkets in Central Alabama and Publix locations in and around Birmingham. Check your local store too; STG is currently expanding distribution.
In tiny New Hope in north Alabama, Steve Howton has been playing with spice combos and cooking up his Howton Farm’s sauces since 2003. He’s worked in construction for years but was always making his own barbecue sauce.
And he still is; while he has a “day job,” he makes every batch of his savory sidekick for slow-smoked meats as well as his newer offering, a zesty, ginger-infused, sesame-seed-studded Salmon & Sushi Sauce (which also adds pizazz to chicken) by hand, using the best ingredients he can find.
“Lots of folks ‘cheap out’ in the sauce industry, but the product suffers when you do that,” he says. “That’s why I’ve kept everything in my control, so I can ensure the quality is high.” Check out his selection of dry seasonings too.
The smoky, piquant jolt of Moore’s Original Marinade has been charming taste buds for a long time, starting with diners at Moore’s Landing restaurant in Jasper, who couldn’t get enough of the house marinade and started buying it by the Styrofoam-cup-full to take home.
Thanks to the LaRussa family, who purchased the restaurant’s recipe, the name and taste live on in Moore’s Marinades & Sauces, the company they founded in Birmingham. Today, Moore’s has expanded to include three marinades and six wing sauces that are distributed nationwide.
The company’s brand manager, Garland Reich, outlined what she thinks has fueled its success and continued growth. “We are a family-owned company, and we make real Southern products,” she says. “Moore’s really captures the flavor of the South.”
While the marinade that built the company is still beloved, Moore’s most popular product (out of nine) is its Buffalo Wing Sauce, a pout-puckering, blazing orange elixir that will electrify your mouth.
Get some: in major grocery stores around the country.
More to love
Alabama’s a pretty saucy state, boasting so many homegrown sauces we can’t adequately cover them all in one article. Here are a few other condiment companies worth checking out. Learn more about them and where to get them on their websites.
In recent years, Alabama has become known for its barbecue, including the sauces served in some of our most storied ‘cue institutions. With a just a few clicks and a credit card, you can have them shipped right to you and add the work of masters to your creations.
When sisters Pat Rogers and Geraldine Golden decided to leave their jobs and open Sisters Restaurant in Troy, they both had a lot of apprehension. Geraldine was working as a waitress at a local restaurant and Pat was in the insurance business, although she had worked as a waitress before.
The former owners of the property that is now Sisters Restaurant approached Pat and Geraldine about buying the property and opening a restaurant. “They said they would work with us any way they could and encouraged us to give it a try. I was all for it but Geraldine was holding out. I finally convinced her to let’s give it a try, so we rented the building for the first year then bought it,” Pat says.
“To get started, we borrowed $10,000 from Jeff Kervin at Troy Bank and Trust. He had faith in us, and has stuck with us. The business did well from the start.
“My mother, Juanita Golden, had taught Geraldine and me to cook when we were girls. We just didn’t know how to cook for so many, but we learned fast. I did most of the cooking to begin with and Geraldine helped out when needed. We wanted to serve food just like our customers ate at their mother’s and grandmother’s house.”
Sisters Restaurant opened serving country cooking, and the ladies intend to continue that style. Its specialties are corn, peas, butterbeans, squash, turnips, collards, and they still use their mother’s recipe for chicken and dressing.
Customers drive from Dothan, Montgomery, Luverne and all around to eat lunch with them, which they consider quite a compliment. “We haven’t forgot what made us successful, and that is our customers,” Pat says.
The restaurant also has become known for its desserts, such as its homemade banana pudding. It is on the “One Hundred Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die” list and has been featured in Southern Living magazine. Another favorite is the bread pudding, made from a secret recipe.
“We always buy quality products in order to maintain our delicious country style of cooking. The first day we opened we had rice on the menu. It was an off brand and stuck to the pan and didn’t taste good. I told the customers that day that if they would stick with me I’d promise never to serve anything like that again. From then on we have only used Uncle Ben’s rice,” Pat says with a chuckle.
Both Pat and Geraldine laugh when they discuss Geraldine’s reluctance to go into business for themselves. “Pat came back all excited when she went and looked at the building the first time,” Geraldine says. “She was ready to get started, but I wanted no part of it. She finally got me to go look at it, but I told her I didn’t want any part of it. I found all kind of excuses not to do it but she talked me into it. I would go home and cry after work for a month or two. But our customers really supported us, and I relaxed and then began to enjoy the work and all the customers we saw every day. It was just fear at first, but I got over it.”
Sisters Restaurant celebrated its 20th anniversary in March. They have completed several additions to accommodate the growing number of customers and the kitchen has been completely remodeled.
Sisters Restaurant offers a country buffet on Thursday night, with the main attraction the white meat or fatback and tomato gravy. They also serve a seafood buffet on Friday night. Sisters is open for lunch every day but Saturday.
One customer asked if he could look in the kitchen. When asked why, he said, “With food this good, I just thought my grandmother might be back there doing the cooking.” It’s hard to top a compliment like that.
Ben Norman is a writer from Highland Home, Ala.
13153 U.S. Highway 231 in Troy, about two miles south of Walmart
11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday
all-you-can-eat buffet starts at 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday;
all-you-can-eat buffet from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday