Come to think of it, I haven’t seen her cooking show too many times. I must do a lot of Paula-Deen-style cooking, though, because whenever I’m looking for a recipe via Google, hers often pop up. A few weeks ago, I wanted a recipe for Banoffee Pie, a banana pie made with whipped cream and carmelized milk. Hers came up. Then I looked for Shrimp Etouffee – and hers came up, too. Neither of these recipes called for butter, the ingredient that has given her such notoriety. (And enough about the butter -- have you read Ina Garten’s recipes lately? Talk about heavy cream!)
I loved Paula’s gracious and humorous response to the recent criticism from Anthony Bourdain that she is the "most dangerous person in America" and I LOVE the fact that Maxim readers have voted her TV’s hottest female chef (but shame on them for using a photo of a stick of better, rather than one of Paula, to illustrate their article!)
What I love most about Paula Deen, though, is her story, which she told at a recent live event. Most would never guess that she had to overcome severe agoraphobia (“I ended up having to cancel my children’s activities because I couldn’t leave the house.”) and hypochondria (“It got to where I couldn’t even watch Dr. Welby MD. I started thinkin I had everything they were talkin about.”) Paula’s parents died when she was a young mother, and she was tasked with raising her younger siblings as well as her own brood, with a husband “who really liked lots of cold beer.” She credits the Serenity Prayer with helping her stay grounded and on track. Back then, she was afraid that her friends would see her mopping floors at the grocery store. I wonder what those same friends think of her now.
Growing up in Florida and living in Louisiana for a few years don’t quite make me a Southerner, but I have eaten and appreciate a good gumbo -- so I was happy to see that there is a recipe for it in her new cookbook, Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible, along with lots of other dishes that I think will feel very at home on my table.
I don’t even think Paula expects me to feed my family from this book every day, but when I have time for something more than a quick weeknight dinner, when I need a dish with special comforting skills, or something to remind me of warm gulf coast breezes, I’ll be reaching for this book -- co-written with Melissa Clark.
So what do you think of Paula?