I remember the first time I saw Paula Deen on television doing the show Ready…Set…Cook! on The Food Network. She was just so hilarious, and she looked like my aunt and had the personality of my college roommate. It was like a (crazy) member of my family was right there on the t.v.
Soon afterward, she began starring in her own show, frying chicken and baking cakes and cooking up all kinds of good Southern food. I was so glad to see the food I grew up with being given the attention it deserved, in a time when, as Paula states, “health-food diet mania” was consuming America.
The rest is history, and Paula Deen is now a household name. In her autobiography, It Ain’t All About the Cookin’, however, Paula proves that everybody seems normal until you get to know them. I guess I just assumed that she was always a success, but she reveals in her book how she spent many years of her life just struggling to make it through the day.
Growing up in Georgia, Paula says she had an idyllic childhood, with her family, grandparents, aunts and uncles all close together running a resort. Her teen years were spent being cute, having fun, and cheering. But at eighteen she met a boy she couldn’t resist, and wanted nothing more than to get married and be a wife and mother.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Paula to realize that marriage wasn’t all smooth sailing all the time, and she began struggling with the fact that she couldn’t make it all better. As is often the case, I think, being sheltered and loved by her family, and possessing the gift of “Southern charm”, that niceness that girls in the South are brought up with, caused an inner struggle for Paula. She felt that “if being protected and cherished by my parents was being spoiled, then I guess I was.”
Then as a result of tragically loosing both her parents within four years of each other, while Paula was still in her early twenties she really began to struggle to keep her sanity. Suffering from panic attacks and agoraphobia while raising two small children tested her every day, until she finally discovered what exactly she suffered from and began to slowly overcome it, and eventually end her marriage.
As a single mother Paula returned to what she knew best, good Southern food. Beginning with a catering company and expanding to a full restaurant, she kept up the traditions of the South. She knew that “the South is all about tradition, and most of those traditions have their origins in the cooking pots and the recipes we pass down from generation to generation” and that “Southern cooking is nothing but Southern – we don’t fly in our ingredients or menus from distant parts of the world. What’s in our pots and on our plates is all home-grown.” And keeping true to this philosophy has meant nothing but success for Paula Deen.
This book is full of Southern charm and wit, and had me laughing one minute and crying the next. If you are from the South, you’ll find yourself nodding along with it, and if you aren’t, you’ll hopefully learn a little about what drives a Southern woman. As Paula says, “Some people call Southern women steel magnolias to show our unfailing survival instinct. Well, if we got dimples of steel, so what. Things have to be right.”
I whipped up this Ham Salad recipe found in Paula’s autobiography, and it turned out to be just right, too.
My Best Ham Salad (Sandwich)
adapted from It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ by Paula Deen
Apparently, there is a holiday for just about everything. Bell Bottoms Day, Cheese Fondue Day, Zipper Day, Cow Chip Day, closely followed by Freak Out Day. My personal favorite: Let Someone Else Clean Day. If only I could talk the husband into that one.
I didn’t have to talk anyone into observing today’s holiday, World Nutella Day, once I starting baking this delectable Nutella Swirl Pound Cake. The aroma from the oven was enough to make everyone a believer.
Nutella, a heavenly spread made from ground hazelnuts and cocoa, was first made in Europe, but has now gained popularity throughout the world and has thankfully made its way down to the Southern US. And what would be a better way to use it than adding it to a buttery, rich pound cake (other than just eating it from the jar)?
The recipe for this pound cake comes from Lauren Chattman’s Cake Keeper Cakes cookbook. The cake bakes up with a dense crumb and a lovely crust on top (my favorite part of a pound cake). I did find that I had to bake the cake a lot longer than the 1 hour and 15 minutes called for, more like 1 hour and 45 minutes. Also, most of the Nutella sank towards the bottom of the cake resulting in really only one layer of spread. So, the next time I make this I will just put 2/3’s of the batter in the pan, spread only one layer of Nutella over that, and then spread the other 1/3 of the batter on top. Then I’ll give it a good swirl up and down and side to side. Does that make sense? I hope so, ’cause it is very important that you try this cake.
I’m here if you have any questions.
Nutella Swirl Pound Cake
adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman
makes one 9×5 inch loaf cake
Being of the Southern persuasion, I grew up eating cornbread as a side for all types of Southern food. And also because of said Southern persuasion, I grew up eating cornbread made without sugar. But I did grow up in the generation of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (notice they call it corn ‘muffin’, not corn ‘bread’ – I don’t think that was unintentional). So it’s not like I was never exposed to the sweet style of cornbread more popular in the North, I just prefer the Southern-style.
The sweetest thing in summer – a fresh peach. Nothing compares to the juicy sweet taste of a perfectly ripe summer peach. And peach season is all too fleeting, so we must make the most of it.
Here it is! The grand finale in my quest for the perfect buttermilk biscuit recipe. I have finally, through many trials and tests – three of which I wrote about here, here, and here, found the recipe that I will be passing down to my children and their children. That’s how much I love them (the biscuits and my children).
The biscuits are back. This time they are made with White Lily flour and half butter, half shortening. I’ve actually made these a few times, but was just too lazy/busy/forgetful to take a picture. We’ve been having country ham a lot with the biscuits, my personal favorite biscuit accompaniment. I’m thinking I must do some research on buying whole country hams, so we can have it more often, but I digress.