50 Women Game Changers in Food: Paula Deen (Week 24)

(Yes. I know this is actually only week 23. But the recipe for that game changer took more time than I anticipated, and I didn’t make my deadline. So, I flip flopped the two weeks…)

In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making its way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so.  As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.

(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)

Week 24 brings us to Paula Deen.

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Being completely honest, I’m not sure how I feel about Paula being on this list.

This list was published in 2011. That’s two years before her racial slur scandal, and before she and her brother fired the staff of their restaurant via a Facebook post. That’s before she admitted to having Type 2 diabetes for three years, yet still cooking mountains of unhealthy foods (around the same time she announced a reported $6 million partnership with Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company, whose main product is insulin). But if you look past that, and pretend it’s 2011 and none of those things happened, is she really a “game changer” when it comes to food? I used to enjoy watching her show… especially the episodes her sons were on… but I don’t know if she changed anything, revolutionized anything, or made the food industry a better place. I think a lot of the names on this list are pretty subjective. I think that a lot of people would argue that Rachael Ray shouldn’t be on the list, but to me, she is the ultimate game changer.

Even though I don’t think that Paula is one of the 50 Most Important Women in Food, I do think the way she turned her own life around is admirable. Paula was born on January 19, 1947 in Georgia. She married young, had children young, and her parents died when she was young. One thing you might have never guessed about the bubbly, vivacious Paula Deen, is that when she was in her 20’s, she suffered from severe agoraphobia. She began to focus on cooking as something she could do for her family, without having to leave her home. In 1989, she and her husband, Jimmy Deen, divorced, and she was left nearly penniless. She tried different things, before she started making bag lunches, and having her sons sell them.

The Bag Lady lasted for a while as a catering & delivery service, and eventually the business grew enough that in 1991 she opened her first full service restaurant in Savannah, called The Lady. In 1996, she opened her flagship restaurant, The Lady & Sons. She continued to flourish, and in 1997, she self published two cookbooks, eventually publishing 14 cookbooks. In 1999, her relationship with Food Network began. She had spots on other shows, and in 2002, her own show, Paula’s Home Cookin’ premiered.

Jumping forward to 2013, when the racial slur scandal caused her to lose many of her endorsements, including her partnership with Food Network. She’s attempting to make a comeback though, and in 2014 announced that she was launching her own network, that would provide a complete digital experience, and The Lady & Sons is still a popular tourist destination in Savannah.

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I grew up in the south, but up until two years ago, I always hated pimiento cheese. Then I had it on a hot dog at JJ’s, & I’ve been obsessed ever since.

Paula’s recipe is excellent. Some people argue that it’s not true pimiento cheese, since it includes cream cheese and not just mayonnaise. Considering how much I loathe mayo, I think that may be why I liked this so much.

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Paula Deen’s Pimento Cheese
(Recipe can be found here.)

Ingredients:

  • 3 T. of diced pimentos
  • 4 oz. of room temperature cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaisse
  • 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup of grated monterrey jack cheese
  • 1 t. of dried, minced onion
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl, and mix well. (You can use your hand & a spoon, but an electric mixer makes this much, much easier.)

My favorite way to eat pimento cheese is just between two slices of bread as a sandwich, but this makes an excellent dip or spread at parties. It’s especially good if the bread is freshly toasted & still a little warm. And of course, it’s darned good on a hot dog

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2 thoughts on “50 Women Game Changers in Food: Paula Deen (Week 24)

  1. Suz @ 2 cats & chloe says:

    Wow I really didn’t know anything about her other than what I’ve heard in the news. Shame on me. I’m glad you like pimento cheese now! #YoureATrueSouthernerNow Your pictures look great!!

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