By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Some nights of the week, Max Howell doesn’t get home from work until after eight o’clock. Too tired to cook for just himself, he’ll often reach for some leftovers or maybe make a sandwich.
But on the weekends, you’ll find him firing up the grill for a group of friends who might want him to cook steaks, ribs, chicken, pork or wild game.
“Where I am now, I’m usually invited to come in and cook for eight or 10 people,” said Howell, an on-air radio personality for Sports Drive, a live sports talk show that airs from 4 to 6 p.m. on Miss 98. “But I have to be able to cook it on the grill. I always volunteer to do the meat and somebody else always does the sides.”
Howell, who lives in Fulton, grew up in Prattville, Ala., and learned how to cook by watching his grandmother.
“My granddaddy was the first licensed veterinarian in Alabama, and he was a barterer,” said Howell, 70. “Farmers were poor then and they might pay him with six chickens or half a dressed hog. My family didn’t have a lot of money, but I’ll tell you what – we ate well.”
A lot of family recipes, as well as those from friends, can be found in “Max’d Out: Tailgating Across the South,” a new cookbook Howell has written. He’ll be signing copies of it Thursday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at Reed’s in downtown Tupelo.
For 30 years, Howell was an assistant football coach for such schools as Florida State, Ole Miss and Troy State.
“I coached two of the greatest: Emmitt Smith in high school and Deion Sanders in college,” Howell said. “I kept trying to get to a head coaching job, but ended up being a career assistant. Don’t get me wrong though – I had a grand time.”
When Howell hit the 50-year-old mark, he realized his chances to become a head coach were dwindling. And so he turned to radio.
“I created the first sports talk show in Atlanta in 1992 – 680 The Fan – and did that for 10 years,” he said. “Radio was the closest thing to coaching without actually being on the field.”
Over the years, cooking has kind of grown on Howell, a father of three and grandfather of four.
“I was doing a regional show in the late ’90s and trying to grow the program with a hook,” he said. “I was watching ‘Hee Haw’ and Grandpa Jones popped up and said, ‘Hey, what’s for supper?’ and that’s kind of been a tagline for me every since on the radio.”
Howell enjoys buying new cookbooks and reading them to get inspiration for recipes he’ll create.
“I’ll read their ingredients and then put another dash of cinnamon in or another splash of lemon juice,” he said. “I use a lot of spices because I’m not a big salt guy. I try to stay away from that. Health-wise, I’ve been blessed. I’ve never spent a night in a hospital. I work out three to four nights a week. There are some things in my life I’d probably do differently. But all in all, I’ve had a good run.”
Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.