Cooking With Paula Deen Ain’t All Butter-Smothered and Deep Fried, Y’all

pauladeen.jpgThe signature “Hey, y’all” greeting drawl and unabashed cooking love affair with butter synonymous with Southern cook, restaurateur, author and Emmy Award-winning television personality Paula Deen is carried through in her namesake magazine.

But while traditional Southern cooking is queen in the pages of Cooking With Paula Deen magazine, everything isn’t all butter-smothered and deep fried–even if her internationally known Savannah restaurant, The Lady and Sons, attracts a line that forms around the block for her fried chicken, creamed corn, black-eyed peas, collard greens and trademark gooey butter cake, which is as rich as it sounds.

With a multimedia following that has grown since her restaurant opened in 1996 and her Paula’s Home Cooking show premiered on Food Network in November 2002, Cooking With Paula Deen magazine not surprisingly draws a heavy following from her viewers across the country.

Paula Deen, the institution, is credited with buoying Savannah tourism, after the newness wore off the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil movie craze. But for Paula Deen, the honest, down-to-earth, Southern-hospitality-personified celebrity chef, fans will drive halfway across the United States just to meet her at a book signing.

An unlikely celebrity, Paula Deen shares in her memoir, It Ain’t All About the Cookin’, that she suffered from agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder generally associated with public places. But finding solace in Southern comfort foods helped her overcome her fears and start a modest lunch business, all while supporting her two sons as a single mother.

Her identity is intimately wrapped up in Savannah; she serves an average of 1,100 customers per day at The Lady and Sons, many of whom are drawn to the city because of her. But online, readers complained that the city is too strong of a focus in her magazine. I found that while it is a major influence, the content is neither completely Savannah-centric nor fully deep fried.

The March/April 2010 issue of Cooking With Paula Deen features a cheesy veggie pizza on the cover (with homemade crust), as well as refreshing fruit smoothies–just in time to cool down in the deep South–with some interesting flavor combinations: Honeydew-Cucumber Mint, Banana Coconut, and Apple-Grape.

Beyond the magazine’s non-recipe content, the reading isn’t just empty calories. The latest issue serves up a feature on Julie Powell, the “Julie” of Julie & Julia book and movie fame. She also offers cooking tips freely throughout the magazine, so true to her voice that you can
almost hear her unmistakable Southern drawl. Cooking With Paula Deen magazine proves to be as folksy and accessible as the Lady herself appears to be in the many outlets of her multimedia empire.

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Michelle Ryan

About Michelle Ryan

Michelle Ryan is obsessed with good food, great shoes and Alabama football way down South in Savannah, Georgia. She hasn’t met a kitchen gadget she hasn’t at least thought about buying (trying them is another story) and devotes her time to Bikram Yoga, baking and trying to overcome long-held finicky eating habits.