Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin'

Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin'

4.2 45
by Paula Deen

View All Available Formats & Editions

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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Anyone who's ever watched, mesmerized, as the author of this memoir panfries a pork chop on the Food Network will find lots to savor in her down-home life story. Deen, the sunny host of Paula's Home Cookingand 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 & 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 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 pork chops. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Food network star Deen gets out of the kitchen; with an eight-city tour. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Sold by:
Sales rank:
File size:
5 MB

Read an Excerpt


Hey, ya'll! In my last cookbook, Paula Deen & Friends, I introduced ya'll to a few of my girlfriends because I wanted them to share with ya'll how they put together menus for entertaining. In this book, I want to share with ya'll how I celebrate holidays and special occasions at my house along with my family. I need to tell ya up front that my first preference for entertaining is definitely casual, but that's not to say that when the old girl has to, she can't put on the dog.

When Michael and I were planning our dream house on Turner's Creek, on Wilmington Island near Savannah, we wanted our home to be inviting. I wanted all my guests to feel like they were being embraced when they came in. I really love large rooms, and fewer of them, rather than a lot of smaller rooms. Our downstairs consists of our master bedroom and bathroom and walk-in closet, a laundry room, a living room, a morning room, a foyer, and a huge kitchen that has two farmhouse tables in it. At one end is an antique table that seats twelve people; at the other end is a small table that seats four people. Michael and I sit at the smaller table when it's just the two of us, and when we have family and friends in, we go to the long table.

When Michael and I were building our kitchen, there were a few things that we just didn't want to do without. I had become so accustomed to commercial deep fryers in the restaurants that I felt like I just couldn't have a kitchen without one of those. I also felt like I couldn't cook without a convection oven like the ones we used in the restaurants. So, into my kitchen went two commercial pieces -- the big convection oven and the deep fryer. I have a five-burner drop-in cooktop on my island, and then under the ventihood, I have another four burners, and two ovens and a double-size griddle for when I have the family over and I'm making pancakes or grilling sandwiches. So, I have really made my kitchen very user-friendly, and the way my kitchen is set up, a lot of us can get in there at the same time and we're not stepping on each other.

Outside, we have Michael's smokehouse -- really an open-air kitchen. It's got all of his barbecue grills, and a long counter for holding lots of food and lots of dishes. We like to throw Low-Country boils there, and barbecue our chickens, grill briskets, cook steak, and smoke ribs. We always like company around us because we've found it's easier to cook for a crowd than to cook for just the two of us. Inside or out, I love to celebrate with family and friends and just stand around and chitchat and cook. And there's just nothing like cookin' and eatin' out by that water. It just gives you a huge appetite.

The important thing to me about this new book was the recipe selections. I didn't want ya'll to feel like you were seeing recipes that you had seen over and over and over again. Of course you'll find my favorites, but at the same time I wanted to give ya'll fresh, new recipes to add to your files. You know, there are so many different ways to update and freshen up recipes and I've said so many times, "A recipe is truly only a starting point." So, when it was time to start on this book, it was only natural that I would turn to my friend Martha Nesbit. Martha and I had worked on Paula Deen & Friends: Living It Up, Southern Style, and it was a very successful book. Martha and I see eye-to-eye on a great many things, and Martha's been testing recipes for twenty-five years. I know her and I trust her. She has taken my favorites, like my chicken potpie, and she's made sure the recipes will work in your kitchen for you just like they work in my kitchen for me 'cause you know that I do have a tendency to add a little of this and a little of that and by the time I get through with it, I don't know what's in it!

For ideas for decorating for my parties, I turned to my personal assistant, Brandon Branch. Brandon has a degree in horticulture from Mississippi State University, and he is the creative director for Cooking with Paula Deen magazine and the art director/prop stylist for Paula's Home Cooking and Paula's Party, both Food Network productions. Brandon also did the flowers for my wedding, for Jamie (Deen) and Brooke's wedding, and for Michelle (Groover) and Daniel Reed's wedding. Brandon and I are very, very close; we work very closely together, and he knows what I like. I just know you'll love his decorating tips.

Each celebration seemed to evoke a message, and I decided to share my thoughts with ya'll and call them "Paula's Pearls of Wisdom." I hope that maybe some of these Pearls will pop into your mind at the exact moment that you need them.

When I was planning this book, it was only natural that I turned to the men in my life to get their opinions as to what they consider my celebration food. I was so touched when I found out what they thought because I feel the exact same way -- a celebration with your family doesn't have to mean a national holiday. In my house, a celebration can be something as simple as everybody being off from work at the same time. I have a daughter who is a nurse and one son who is home one week and works one week, and there's no juggling those kinds of schedules.

So, anyway, why don't we stop all the chitchat and get to cooking, 'cause we've got a lot to celebrate! Ya'll have fun, and, as always, I send you best dishes and love from my kitchen to yours.

Paula Deen

July 2006

Copyright © 2006 by Paula Deen

Chapter 1


What did I have, what was makin' me so scared that my heart about beat out of my chest? I just knew I was gonna die, knew my heart couldn't stand this kind of pressure, and it had happened too many times before. Almost every last time I had to go outside by myself, that panic would start in and drop me to my knees. Couldn't breathe, couldn't stop trembling. I felt weak and nauseated and dizzy, and I just knew I was gonna die in front of other people. If I dropped over in public, think how horribly humiliatin' it would be.

But, oh Lord, the magnolias smelled so damn good out my window, and all morning I'd been fixin' to take my eleven-year-old son, Jamie, to baseball practice. After, I figured I'd hang out at the mall store in the housewares section, then maybe go strollin' for a bit, just to breathe deep some of that sweet Georgia air. I wanted to walk through my door so bad and maybe today I could do it; maybe today I could go outside.

There would be no breathin' deep, no goin' outside. The thought of outside grabbed my gut like a 'coon grabs a chicken. I started to sweat and my arms lost all feeling, like they belonged on someone else. At the very least, I was likely to faint at any moment. Would there be someone to see me, someone who would catch me if one of those panicky attacks came back and I lost control and fainted outside? Oh, my stars, I was frightened silly.

It was 1978, and I was thirty-one years old. Was this the day I was finally going to die, the day I'd secretly been waiting for and dreading ever since my daddy passed almost thirteen years ago now?

Well, maybe not, if I stopped thinking of going outside.

You're safe, Paula, I told myself. You're safe inside this house. No one's makin' you go out, you won't die today. Fact is -- don't you remember -- y'all canceled the boys' after-school stuff for the whole year.

What sickness did I have? What had happened to me? My terror had no name -- least none I'd ever heard. I was alone with it. So scared about goin' outside.

It wasn't always this way.

Copyright © 2007 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.

You should know this: you gotta be willin' to work for that American dream -- work for it, and feel the passion. You gotta truly be in love with what you do. If you have a wild hair to fly a circus trapeze, to chug out to sea on a tug, to own a restaurant when you haven't much more than a dime to your name, or to search for true love even when you're no spring chicken -- go for it. Sure, luck plays a part, but here's the thing: the harder I work, the luckier I get.

A warning: you may be a little shocked at some of the language in this book, and that's another weakness of mine. I tell people who come to my cooking class that sometimes I can be a little bawdy and I sure hope that don't upset them. But I'm my father's daughter, and I'm banking on one thing, and I'm not budging on this: my God has a sense of humor even if what I say has a four-letter word in it. I think He'd want me to laugh. What's in my heart is not irreverence but a full knowledge that God's laughing too.

So, this is a book wishin' you best dishes from my house to yours, but it's also a look into my home, my true life, my loves, and my Southern heart.

Copyright © 2007 by Paula Deen

Meet the Author

Paula Deen is the bestselling author of thirteen books and an Emmy Award–winning Food Network television star. She was born and raised in Albany, Georgia. She later moved to Savannah, where she started The Bag Lady catering company. The business took off and evolved into The Lady & Sons restaurant, which is located in Savannah’s historic district and specializes in Southern cooking. She also co-owns Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House with her brother. Paula publishes a bimonthly magazine, Cooking with Paula Deen, and is a regular guest on QVC, where she sells her books and food products.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin' 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
FeB13 More than 1 year ago
If you're a fan of Paula Deen, this book will only make you love her more. She puts herself out there for the world to understand that the only person that is in your way of being happy in your life is you, and no obstacle is too big to overcome. To know where she's been and see how far she's come is an inspirational book for anyone.
LabMomNC More than 1 year ago
I found this memoir to be very real. The one thing about Paula is she never does anything half way. Some of the intimacies she reveals in the book border on TMI, but it seems she set out to bare her soul and that is what she did. Raucus, rowdy, and feriociously loving, Paula tells her story with honesty and humor. She made me laugh as she always does. Great read. Inspirational.
JoAnnRyan More than 1 year ago
Love her or hate her, (personally I love her and all her butter lovin' ways, too) Paula Deen is an American fixture and a hard-working self-made woman. and that deserves respect. I just got through reading her autobiography It Ain't All About the Cooking. I know it came out a few years ago, but that's just how life goes sometimes. I'm so glad that I was finally able to pick it up. As a woman who has been through plenty of hard knocks myself, I found her story very relatable. She's a woman who made mistakes (failed marriage, affair with a married man) and faced a lot of tough obstacles (agoraphobia, no money) but she had the courage to move on and become "a woman of substance". successful restaurant owner, cookbook author and Food Network queen. Ultimately, she never let the negative things in her life weigh her down. That to me makes her story enjoyable and very inspiring. Of course it couldn't be a Paula Deen autobiography without her including some really great recipes! Mississippi Mud Cake, Biscuits & Sawmill Gravy and her Grandmomma's Fried & Steamed Chicken, . it ain't diet food, it's comfort food!
PBWriter36 More than 1 year ago
I read this book in an afternoon and it was very refreshing. Much of what I read, I had already heard from interviews but it was very fun 'hearing' it in her voice from the beginning. It was written very matter-of-fact and quite honestly. I wasn't a big fan of her cooking shows (sorry) since I favor Medditerranean cuisine but have visited her restaurant in Savannah (Lady & Sons) and found the fried green tomatoes and seafood chowder fantastic. And butter aside, I find HER extremely likeable (I may even try some recipes found in this lil' book ya'll). Good Read!
Allieksmith More than 1 year ago
I didn't know many things about Paula until I read this book, I would highly recommend it to ANYONE, even if you don't cook or even like Paula Deen. She tells her story well, including her struggles, mistakes, ups and downs, and triumphs. This is a really great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought it would be interesting to learn a little bit about Paula's background.....Well, I now know and I love her even more! What a great book! I love the honesty and the wisdom she gives. One of my favorite biographies.
MommyOfMunch More than 1 year ago
I'm not a really big Paula Deen fan, but I found this in a bargain bin and I love memoirs so I read it. I loved her candid storytelling, the insight into her life and family, and I loved her commentary on random things. I haven't tried any of the recipes that end each chapter, but I definitely will be! I enjoyed the quotes that introduced each chapter as well. I can think of a few people who will enjoy this book, also. I would recommend it.
ValG More than 1 year ago
I didn't know Paula Deen until today. I swear I bought her book only because It was at a $1.99 price and I knew she was a great cook. It is funny how God works and sends you the info you need just in the right moment. That is what happened here. (I'm working on m own book and needed a bit of inspiration). Now, about the book. It's heart warming and heart breaking. When we read the true story about a TV celebrity, we usually expect easiness and la vie en rose, basically. Well Paula´s story is completely different. She tells you all the details of her success, including those that are terrible decisions, bad moments and how she got trough them. It's definitely something that will inspire you, and let you see how lucky you're. I really hope you read it, it will be worth the time and money spent on this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Paula Deen!! She deserves a second chance. Haven't we all said something we shouldn't have, or done things we regret? Michael Vick was killing dogs and he got back on the football field, really???!!! So why shouldn't Paula be allowed on tv, or sell another cookbook??!! Give her a break!!!
Marguerite52 More than 1 year ago
I loved Paula's book and the way she talks about her past, present and yes dreams of the future. As I read her story I smiled, laughed and yes cried, then smiled some more. A must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book from the beginning to the end. Paula Deen explains how she came to be as a cook and celebrity. She did not hold back and told her 'secrets' with dignity and grace. Some of her revelations must have been difficult to disclose. God bless her soul! I admire her honesty and courage and I especially admire her dedication to family. Good book to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Payula deen wgas being racest agents blacks so she and her books sucks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago