Love and Best Dishes, Paula

The Texas Book Festival takes place every October here in Austin, and every October I lament my ability to drop my kids at a park and spend the day at the festival. I know, one day in the not-too-distant future I’ll be able to do as I please on any given Saturday, but sometimes the waiting is the hardest part. This year, though, I had a several-hour window of childlessness on Sunday morning and took it as an opportunity to see and hear Paula Deen at one of my favorite Austin venues, the historic Paramount Theater. I was far from the only person with the same thought as this picture of the line to enter, wrapped around the corner and then some, illustrates. (aAd yes, those men are wearing shorts. It’s October in Texas, and we’re still wearing shorts).

Paula’s interviewer was Hugh Acheson (Top Chef Masters!), who took himself pretty seriously, but Paula quickly guided him “down home” for a more grounded conversation. They began talking about Paula’s publishing history, especially her big break, when a Random House publisher dined at her Savannah restaurant and asked for a copy of Paula’s self-published cookbook. The conversation moved onto Southern foods and I’ll share the Paula wit-and-wisdom from this part of the conversation:

  • In the south, we show our love with food. “If you die, your family is going to get a pie. If you have a baby, you are going to get a pie. If you move into our neighborhood, you are going to get a pie.”
  • Hugh: “I want to make Kimchi rice grits.” Paula: “Have you tried salt, pepper and butter? Throw a little cheese in it, honey.”
  • Her son Bobby has a new cooking show that makes her recipes healthier: “I used to say about the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding, one serving per lifetime. Now, I can have it three times.”
  • “We eat more vegetables in the South than any other region of the country”
  • In the Q&A, when asked about her husband Michael’s favorite meal: “Oxtail, or standing rib roast. Do you know what Michael looks like? He likes a lot of food.”
  • How did food help you with your separation and divorce? “It was because of food that I was able to get my separation and divorce. So, it helped a lot.”

On the more serious side, I was impressed with the women Paula says she modeled herself after. Her Aunt Peggy and her grandmother were her inspirations, and Paula said her grandmother could literally break down a turtle to make the finest bowl of turtle soup. It reminds me to be mindful of cooking and baking with and in the presence of my own kids rather than when they are otherwise occupied, so they might correlate food and family, kitchens and cooking, with family life.

And as bonus, I found out about this dessert blog from my friend Bonnie who I ran into on the way to the line. I am going to make some kick-ass treats.

Are you a Paula Deen fan? I think she’s hilarious, and I really enjoy her children’s cookbooks because they are spiral bound and pre-literacy minded, with incredibly easy recipes that my kids feel confident about following. But, I haven’t bought one of her “grown-up” cookbooks yet. Do you have one you love? Or is Paula not your cup of tea? Leave a comment!

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