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Why, Paula, Why?

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….

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About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

14 responses »

  1. i despise her food deeply
    i despise her whole public persona

    i think she is a pimple on the culinary ass of society

    questions?

    Reply
  2. My mother always told me if I couldn’t say anything nice not to say anything at all and this sentence is the nicest thing I can say.

    Reply
  3. Wow.. I actually really like Paula. Of course, you can’t eat her food every day — you can’t eat anything fried, buttery, pasta-rich, or creamy daily. Well, I can’t anyway — I have the metabolism of a walrus.

    I’m not defending her — just saying that if you are looking for gourmet cooking then Paula Deen’s Home Cookin’ will never appeal to you. As far as I know, she’s never claimed to be anything more than a nice lady who managed to raise two sons and have a successful business in Savannah without any formal training.

    My husband was raised in a small town in the Midwest and LOVES casseroles. When I married him, I’d never been served casserole and didn’t know anyone who had. I made him dressing with oysters and figured that would shut him up. He looked up and said, “stuffing?” It was then that I began to search for someone to help me cook for my husband. I was in WAY over my head. I’d never even seen a Campbell’s soup can.

    Paul’s casseroles made my husband happy. For that, I’ll always love that woman.

    Yes, she does look like she’s sitting on something very exciting! All the time!

    Reply
  4. claudia, loud and clear.

    Mary, I can’t tell if I’ve offended you – I hope not. (I’m not sure if you can’t say anything nice about what I wrote or about Paula). Please let me know so I can make it right?

    Lacy, I’m afraid that sometimes I’m kind of complicated, prickly and opinionated. Paula is probably a nice lady, and I think lots of people love what she does, but, like Rachel Ray, she’s a public figure and opens herself up to…comment. I am married to a Midwestern farm boy, myself, and I fully understand that there is a place for the comfortable and the familiar. The magazine just cracked me up for some reason, and when you’re trying to write every day, you go with what inspires you. Please accept my apology if I’ve offended you, too….

    Reply
  5. controversial topics are good………get a good debate started……it increases blog traffic.

    now let’s talk about the hottest chef on top chef………all seasons included. of course we all know how i feel about sam “heart throb” talbot.

    is there truly anyone this season that has the makings of a top chef? i haven’t seen anyone yet. how about ya’ll?

    is the only quality foodie type programing on pbs? will julia child reincarnate any time soon? inquiring minds wanna know!

    who wants to go first? lol

    Reply
  6. Don’t you worry! I wasn’t offended at all!! I enjoy chatting about likes and dislikes! Honestly, I wouldn’t like Paula’s cooking either — had I not married the ol’ casserole freak (who I dearly love and will happily cook for until I fall over from exhaustion because he really is just the sweetest man).

    I wish I could comment/debate on Top Chef. I’ve never seen it. We watch tv every so often and then it is usually Family Guy (I know — I am totally tasteless and tacky!!! I LOVE Family Guy.), Food Network, BBC, or DIY. We haven’t seen anything more than the ads for Top Chef. I’ll tell you what show gets me all upset — Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. He is just the bee’s knees and these stupid people don’t listen to him…. drives me batty!

    Blessings to you all! I’m sorry not to have stopped by more lately. I’ve been revamping my entire site. You just have to see what I’ve done! I’m so dang proud of myself I could crow. Do you have Mozilla Foxfire? That seems to be the best way to see all the pictures!!

    Gotta go to bed. It’s 4:25 a.m. Practically time to get up. Yikes!

    -Lacy

    Reply
  7. jayedee, have I told you lately that I love you. 🙂 I still like Sam best of anyone on Top Chef, ever. I have not been watching as much this year because my husband is unaccountably annoyed by Padma, and it distracts me when he comments on how “fake” she is. Geez, I’d like to be that “fake.” I guess I think Ryan and Mark are the cutest, but I am not seeing a clear winner. Did I mention that I liked Sam best? As for foodie TV, now watch “Create” on PBS, which has Lidia Bastianich, “Chef’s Story,” “Caprial’s Kitchen,” and a number of other low-fluff, high-instruction cooking shows. The only way I find anything og Food Network any more is to watch early on Saturday and Sunday mornings when there are actual cooking shows.

    Lacy, whew! Now I just have to see whether Mary hates me. We do watch “Kitchen Nightmares,” both US and UK versions, and we all love it, although it does get stressful when they ignore him. How could you have someone like that come in to help, and fight them?! I will go visit you and see what you’ve done – I do have Mozilla.

    Reply
  8. OMGosh, now I totally have a crush on you. A woman who didn’t know Sloppy Joe Seasoning Mix existed (and who posts amazing recipes like the Hummus and Lentil/Rice dish)? Definitely someone to note.

    Reply
  9. katrina, thanks, particularly for not thinking I’m just a total snob. I did know that Sloppy Joes existed (you can’t attend public school in the 70s and not know that) but I did not know they could be made with powder. I hope this means you’ll stick around; I’ve enjoyed your company!

    Reply
  10. Annie,
    I’m a Paula fan, at least in theory, but after a friend bought me a year’s subscription to her magazine as a gift, I will likely never read it again, either. It is not Paula at her best, but then I’m trying to avoid Paula at her best (i.e. pounds of butter). I think the true Paula is found in her earliest cookbooks — the magazine is definitely written by a more Sandra Lee-type staff. Blech.

    Reply
  11. Barbara, I totally agree – I have, and use two of the cookbooks which actually have some pretty great (and sometimes elegant) recipes. I think her restaurant is actually pretty elegant. I guess I always have trouble with magazines that can’t quite decide what they are…maybe they’ll work it out one of these days.

    Reply
  12. Well, well, well. As you all know by now if you have read any of my blogs is that I am not a huge fan of Paula’s. While I do agree her story is heartfelt, but as far as the food in the restaurant – it is Nothing special that warrents a line starting at 9 am of hot, sweaty tourist waiting to get a taste of some canned corn – I just don’t get it. Yes, she has kind of put Savannah on the map in the ‘foodie’ world, and yes, she is raking in the bucks while other restaurants that actually cook their food from scratch are suffering – so, by all means, she should ride the wave of success until it gets old – and it will!!

    Reply
  13. Welcome, gourmetgirly! Sounds like you have actually been to the restaurant? I agree with your assessment of the situation (obviously), particularly the fact that people choose to eat some pretty processed food made at Paula’s restaurant when I know there are other local choices that are far more innovative and fresh.

    Reply
  14. Paula is truly that vivacious! I am a volunteer photographer in Savannah and she is ALWAYS very lively and expressive. I have watched her talk, laugh and pose with fans for hours at a time. She and her family are very generous with their resources. To see photos of them, go to spotted.savannahnow.com and type PAULA in the search box.

    Reply

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