I have nothing against Paula Deen. I am very touched by the story of her early life as a single mother and her struggles to support them despite her agoraphobia. It is exactly the kind of Movie of the Week stuff that makes this cynical woman get all moist in the orbits. I also think I’d like her if I actually met her – at least in small doses. She seems warm and funny, and loves food. I would just need to be able to retreat periodically to a quiet corner and reflect on the meaning of shadow imagery in Shakespearean sonnets to get myself back on track, mentally.
Recently I came into possession of a copy of Paula’s magazine, which is imaginatively titled “Cooking with Paula Deen.” I did not buy it; if I have five bucks to squander on a magazine I am more likely to pick up “Saveur” or a big, fat “Vogue,” but I will read anything except “Popular Mechanics” and publications from The John Birch Society…and this was free.
The cover is the first problem, because Paula really, really looks like she is high. I don’t know whether its possible to get high on butter and canned, cream soup, but its hard to believe that there’s a joint in the pocket of her plaid taffeta blouse. She also looks as if she’s being goosed, and my money is on her husband Cap’n Ron (its Captain something) who looks as if he might be a pretty randy old codger.
Once I got past Paula’s unnaturally rhapsodic facial expression ( no one is that excited by a bowl of chili), I looked at the recipes. It became clear to me within 20 pages that I am not the target demographic. Despite a nod to the gourmet with a selection of recipes using quail and elk, and Tuna Kebabs with Wasabi Sauce, the recipes tended to be heavy on processed and/or convenience items, and, well, just plain heavy. I know that’s her schtick, and I might whip up the off batch of Spinach and Black-Eyed Peas, but no one could eat this stuff all the time. Could they?
In case you’re wondering what all the snobbery is about, I’ll tell you. Sloppy Joe Meatballs, which require a package of “Sloppy Joe Seasoning,” the very existence of which was unknown to me until I read the recipe. Roasted Peppers and Onion Dip which calls for a package of chopped, frozen onions “thawed and squeezed dry.” Not. Potato Soup which calls not only for frozen hash browns, but for a can of cream of chicken soup. Spicy White Lasagna which requires not one, but two jars of garlic alfredo sauce. (Or library paste, if you can find it, although it tends to develop a mintier flavor). Nuff said? There are also a number of “lifestyle” articles involving, among other things, Majolica pottery, charitable deeds done by Paula’s family, and how to set a festive table.
I give Paula just tons of credit for what she’s done with her life, but I will not ever read her magazine again, even if its free. It goes off to the library donation cart along with the Cooking with Campbell’s cookbook I received as a gift, and a copy of The Complete Poems of Rod McKuen stumbled upon during a recent cleaning episode. I am ungrateful and a snob, but I hope you’ll still love me anyway….