It Ain’t All About the Cookin’
I like to cook — not hours a day, mind you, but a tasty meal with fresh ingredients to share with my husband at the end of the day is a pleasure. My mom (lasagna! apple pie!) and grandma (broccoli cheese soup! meat loaf sandwiches!) are great cooks who have always welcomed extra hands in the kitchen. So is my little sis, who is all prosciutto and boursin and roasted peppers (if that sounds good, check out her blog, where she often posts menus or recipes). So Food Network is something I seek out during downtimes, and I’m here to admit that Paula Deen is one of my guilty pleasures.
I don’t own any of her cookbooks and I don’t think I’ve ever made one of her recipes—I just don’t have the patience (or cleaning supplies) for any meal that requires me to bring 3 inches of Crisco up to a sizzle. So if I don’t watch her show for the food, why? For one thing, I don’t trust a Size 6 Chef, and Paula doesn’t either. Plus her vivacious personality comforts me, maybe because she reminds me a little of my Grandma Doris. Granny doesn’t have the Georgia drawl, but she does have the infectious, make-it-up-as-you-go, “oops I dropped a little too much butter in there” sense of humor. But that still doesn’t quite explain why I watch her show. See, if I were dragged into a cosmetics protest, I would campaign against false eyelashes; but I’ll make an exception for Paula. I think pie crusts should be kneaded sans ostentatious diamond rings; but I’ll make an exception for Paula. Grown women who end every sentence with a giggle make my punching arm itch; but I’ll make an exception for Paula. I can’t explain it — I just like her!
That’s why I say her brand new memoir is aptly titled. It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ is pure Paula, complete with dropped gs, sailor’s mouth (be warned—she was the first Food Network chef to be bleeped on tv), and similes as corny as hush puppies with a side of hoecakes. Oh yes, this memoir is that irritating! I found myself wishing she had not stayed in character for the whole book. But between gritting my teeth I also laughed. I was let down when she admitted some whopping mistakes I never expected from a successful Southern lady — but also buoyed at how she rose above difficult circumstances to pursue a successful, happy life for herself and her family. The overall effect is winsome, if unsophisticated.
And there’s a fun little section in chapter 15 where she describes the four categories of Southern cooking: comfort food (creamed corn with butter), funeral food (deviled eggs and biscuits with butter), celebration food (crab and potatoes with butter), and sexy food (anything dipped in butter). I think you get the idea.
This book will be overlooked (with excellent reason) by the literati — and, frankly, I’ll bet she was aiming for that. But everyday folks with less than ideal educations, tough marriages, crippling depressions, or mouths to feed on a tight budget will probably take heart knowing that if Paula could do it, so can they. And, if they like doughnuts and ham salad (recipes included), they might eat good on the way.
It ain’t great writin’, but it’s Paula’s life, y’all.