The Kitchen Reader: It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ by Paula Deen

February 28, 2010

This month’s selection for The Kitchen Reader is It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ by Paula Deen (with Sherry Suib Cohen).

image from Amazon.com

I didn’t know a lot about Paula Deen before reading this book. I knew that she had a cooking show, which I’ve watched here and there. I knew she had two sons who she’s crazy about, and that she got married a few years ago and the wedding was on the Food Network. I knew that she used a lot of butter because people joke about that all the time. And one thing that I didn’t want to know about her: a friend of mine attended the South Beach Food and Wine Festival last year and told me that Paula Deen appeared there and mooned the audience. That is a side of Paula that I don’t want to see! My friend didn’t know who she was, but she sure made an impression on her…unfortunately not a good one. In her book, though, she comes off as a pretty likeable person. This was an entertaining, easy read. I give her a lot of credit for telling stories about things that most of us would keep to ourselves. I don’t know if she tells all, but she tells some things that I’m sure were hard to talk about.

The book starts at the beginning and takes us to about 2007. It really is a rags to riches story, and I’ll admit that I got sucked into the drama of her life. She grew up very poor, had a not-so-great marriage, and suffered agoraphobia. When she was 42, she started her own business selling bag lunches and that was the start of her success in the food world. The lunch business led to a restaurant, then another restaurant, then a cookbook, and then the Food Network.

A few fun facts:

  • Before she had her own show on the Food Network, she appeared on Door Knock Dinners and Ready…Set…Cook! I used to love watching those shows!
  • Paula’s husband Michael is 9 years younger than she is. I never would have guessed that!
  • Former president Jimmy Carter appeared on her show twice.
  • She had a small part in the movie Elizabethtown.

If I may vent for a moment…some of the writing in this book drove me up the wall. She writes words as if they’re being spoken in a Southern accent: weddin’, fixin’, et (instead of ate). I know how Paula talks and I could hear her voice in my head when I was reading the book, but I didn’t need it spelled out for me. I think she reads the audio book, and that would have been fun to listen to, but it wasn’t available at my library.

Not surprisingly, each chapter ends with a recipe: Shaggy Man Split Pea Soup, Pan-Fried Corn, and Beef Stroganoff are just a few, plus there are desserts such as Baked-Savannah Alaska and Mississippi Mud Cake.

This was an interesting story. If you like rags to riches stories, or if you want to know more about Paula Deen’s background, this may be the book for you. Take a look at what the other Kitchen Reader members thought!


  1. I’ve made a few of her recipes…. they’re a hit at work, but I’m with you. Some things irritate me about her baking… it’s that constant sampling with her fingers, etc. 🙂 Everyone loves her though – so she must be worth it! The story IS a great one…. glad to know you can bring yourself up to the top with a cream-filled glazed doughnut!

  2. Hah, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who wanted to punch some of those apostrophes! I only knew she makes Southern with lots of butter, so I was a little bummed about the recipes. My original thought had been to try one of them, but I’m a vegetarian (not shocked by lack of vegetarian recipes) and I don’t like banana bread. Hmph.

  3. Oh yes, I could hear her voice while I was reading the book, too. It would be fun to listen to the audio book if Paula were reading it! Being mooned by her, not so much.

  4. Still haven’t decided if I liked Paula’s book or not. But then I feel the same way about her.

    BTW I live in the south – deep south, and her grammar drove ME crazy!!!

    Good review.

  5. I wouldn’t have enjoyed being mooned by her either.

    I make her pumpkin gooey butter cake every year during the holidays…THAT is delicious!

    Loved this book!

  6. Wow, I wouldn’t want to be mooned either – not a great move. Love your review. I forgot that February only has 28 days, so my review is up a day late! I liked her – at least the self that she presented in the book.

  7. Hmm, I don’t know much about Paula Deen, either, except for all the butter and the kind of loud personality, but it sounds like she has an interesting backstory.

    So funny that you mentioned Door Knock Dinners – I loved that show! I watched it just out of college, and I remember my roommate and I used to laugh about what a terrible time they’d have if they showed up to our house.

  8. Great review! I like Paula Deen. I don’t really “follow” her show or anything, but she seems like a neat person who worked really hard for her success. And she surely loves her family and her pets.

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