Do you know the real Paula Deen? You may think you know the butter-loving, finger-licking, joke-cracking queen of melt-in-your-mouth Southern cuisine. You may have even visited The Lady & Sons to taste for yourself the down-home delicacies that made her famous and even heard some version of her Cinderella story (a single mom with two teenage sons started a brown-bag lunch business with $200 and wound up with a thriving restaurant, a fairy-tale second marriage, and wildly popular television shows), but you have never heard the intimate details of her often bumpy road to fame and fortune.
Courageously honest, downright inspiring, and just a little bit saucy, Paula shares the highs and lows of her life in the inimitable charming and irreverent style that you know from her television shows and personal appearances. She talks about long childhood summers spent in a bathing suit and roller skates and hard years living in the back of her father's gas station; a buzzing high school social life of sleepovers, parties, cheerleading, and boys; and a difficult marriage. The death of her beloved parents precipitated a debilitating agoraphobia that crippled her for years. But even when the going got tough, Paula never lost the good grace and sense of humor that would eventually help carry her to success and stardom. Of course, you can't get by on charm alone: as Paula has learned, you need plenty of willpower, hard work, and, above all, the love and support of family and friends to finance, sustain, and run a successful restaurant.
In each chapter, Paula shares new recipes: there's serious comfort food like her momma's Chocolate-Dippy Doughnuts, Courage Chili for when you know life's going to get tough, Sexy Oxtails for seducing that special someone, and the recipe for her new mother-in-law's Banana Nut Delight Cake that Paula finally got just right. And you'll love the never-before-seen photos of her family.
In this memoir, Paula Deen speaks as frankly and intimately as few women in the public eye have ever dared. Whether she's telling tales of good times or bad, her story is proof that the old-fashioned American dream is alive and kicking, and there still is such a thing as a real-life happy ending.
Anyone who's ever watched, mesmerized, as the author of this memoir pan-fries a porkchop on the Food Network will find lots to savor in her down-home life story. Deen, the sunny host of Paula's Home Cooking and the author of three cookbooks, relates the collapse of her first marriage, her surprising fight with agoraphobia and the rise of her Savannah restaurant, The Lady and Sons, with candor, good humor and mouthwatering descriptions of Southern food. Of her husband's favorite dish, Sexy Oxtails, Deen writes, "It is a loving dish; a hearty, lip-smacking dish; and those tails are better than a passionate kiss." Yes, she includes the simple, savory recipe alongside recipes for favorites like belly-filling Shaggy Man Split Pea Soup, salty-sweet Pan-Fried Corn and addictive Biscuits and Sawmill Gravy. Deen writes the way she talks-lots of ain'ts, darlings and honeys-but the effect is charming and disarmingly upfront. On her early Food Network success, she says, "I was not a size 2, but instead a sassy, roundish, white-headed cook. Women could identify with me... I could be them, and they could be me." She's absolutely right; when Deen has turned the last of life's lemons into Southern-sweet lemonade, readers may want to stand up and cheer, or maybe just tuck into a big, celebratory plate of porkchops.
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Simon & Schuster
March 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Paula Deen by Paula Deen
I never call myself a chef. Never went to Chef School. Never made a Blanquette de Veau. Never met a boxed cake mix I didn't like.
I'm a cook. Learned at my grandmomma's stove. But I can cook, honey, cook rings around those tall-white-hatted chefs.
My fried chicken, my grits -- oh my stars, you'll think you died and went to heaven.
Like everyone else on this earth, there's a story behind the cook, behind the recipes, behind the woman.
So, y'all, here is what the publisher calls my memoirs.
How did they come about? Well, I've written five cookbooks, and after each one, I got thousands of letters from people asking about my personal life, not just my life with grits. Until now, I haven't been about ready to do that. Maybe if you heard the truth about Paula Deen, about the mistakes I made in my life, how bad my judgment's been at times, and how guilty I still feel because my mothering wasn't always so wonderful...well, maybe you wouldn't be quite as lovin' to me as you have been. And that would kill me.
If I could get back one wrong I did to my family, if I could choose some words I could take back and eat 'em down so they would never have seen the light, it would be the day I told my son Jamie I hated him. I can barely write those words now. I love my sons more than life, but we were in the heat of the battle of starting a restaurant business, trying to get all those people fed, and I felt like Jamie was pulling against me, rather than with me. If I could only live that day over, oh, I would. You'd better believe I learned that the spoken word can never be taken back. Sure, you can apologize for it, but you and the person you hurt will never, ever forget. Forgive, maybe, if you're real lucky.
I've asked for a lot of forgiveness in my life and I've given it as well. You know what? In church, they always tell you to forgive your enemies. Seems to me it's even harder to forgive our loved ones and friends, but it's much more important to do so because it's the people we love who can hurt us the most. The terrible thing I said to Jamie taught me to speak with more care and try not to let my instinct for survival get me so mad I'll give pain to someone close to me. But can you imagine me, a mother who loves her boys beyond love, saying such a thing to her own child?
I'll tell you something else: in all the things that have been written about me, there's something that's been left out of the tellin'. I'm a smoker. There, I said it. Hardly anyone outside my family knows that, and it embarrasses me because it's an addiction I can't be quit of, though I try every day. They say Jackie Kennedy was a chain smoker, but she would never allow herself to be photographed with a cigarette -- and I get that real well because I also try my damndest to see that no one takes my picture with one. I love my fans so much and I hate to disappoint them; to see me with such a weakness will surely upset them. I still need to walk into a room where they're waiting with my head up.
But suddenly, somehow, it's time to show and tell -- warts and all. I plan to tell some hard secrets in these pages, but it's taken a long time to get up the nerve to do so. Try ten years. Maybe twenty.
Mostly, I want to share with you that I'm livin' proof that the American dream is alive and well, that you can be an imperfect person and still end up with so much fun in your life you can hardly stand it. I'm prayin' that if even one of you out there gets some inspiration from the way my own American dream turned into reality, it'll be worth playing true confessions here.