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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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 48.
- Review Date: 2007-12-31
- Reviewer: Staff
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 Cooking and 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.)
Deen dishes out her spicy life story
First there was the Savannah restaurant, then the best-selling cookbooks and the Food Network shows. Now the Southern powerhouse who built a mini-empire on trans fats offers a no-holds-barred memoir, It Ain't All About the Cookin', a book that'll leave you hankerin' for fried chicken and biscuits.
Writing a memoir, even when the revelations aren't lavished with references to butter, can be a slippery slope (just ask James Frey). Truth is tricky when memory is involved, but there's no bull-bleep here: Deen's story is straightforward, bluntly honest and served up with trademark irreverent Southern spice (and her favorite recipes). "My God has a sense of humor even if what I say has a four-letter word in it," she proclaims. Expletives aside, Cookin' is a hoot, a read that'll grab hold of you "like white on rice" as you devour Deen's rags-to-riches tale.
Deen had happy childhood hours in her Grandmomma Paul's kitchen and carefree summers spent at her grandparents' resort; then came her high school cheerleading days, followed by a difficult marriage to an alcoholic husband. There's heartbreak as she struggles with crippling agoraphobia. There's divorce and poverty, and two hungry kids to support. But, always, there's the cookin'.
Desperate, Deen did the one thing she knew that she could do. With only $200, she launched The Bag Lady, peddling homemade sandwiches to office workers. In short order, the hardworking mother went from selling sandwiches to sit-down service, starting two successful restaurants, meeting influential people, and eventually winding up on the Food Network as the undisputed queen of Southern cuisine, and host of "Paula's Home Cooking." Along the way, she found fairy-tale romance and marriage. It Ain't All About the Cookin' drives home the importance of love, perseverance and family. It's also a mini primer on restaurant ownership, and a guide to the beguiling secrets of Southern charm and Southern food.
Alison Hood writes from San Rafael, California.