A Paula Deen Thanksgiving
Family and Food
For Paula Deen there are a baker's dozen reasons to be thankful: the two Emmys she recently won for her Food Network show, Paula's Home Cooking; her burgeoning food magazine, Cooking with Paula Deen; her best-selling cookbooks; her well-trafficked Web site, PaulaDeen.com; her popular Savannah eateries The Lady and Sons and Uncle Bubba's Oyster House. But this Thanksgiving, as the 60-year-old chef gathers her family into the dining room of her gracious home, it quickly becomes apparent that Paula's greatest blessing is the people sitting around her. Ladies' Home Journal pulled up a chair to the Deen family table and listened in.
"What am I thankful for? Are you kidding?" asks Paula, letting loose one of her trademarked peals of laughter. "Look at who I got under my roof -- only my whole family, who I love to death. There's Jack, my new grandson -- he's my son Jamie and his wife Brooke's baby. I love my little Jackpot so much I wonder how come I didn't have an empty hole in my heart before he came. There's Bobby, my other son, who was recently named one of the most eligible bachelors. There's my brother, Bubba, and his new wife, Dawn, and Dawn's boys Trevor and Iaan, and Bubba's kids, Corrie and Jay. There's the matriarch of our family, Aunt Peggy [Ort]. And there's my Michael -- do you believe I got me a cute guy eight years younger? And Michael's son Anthony. And the dogs Otis and Sam and Cody and Bodine -- all with their paws under my table. We're all healthy and walkin' and laughin', and you know what else? Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday because you don't have to wrap no presents for 30 people after you've had to figure out what they don't have. You only have to bribe these kids with a great meal and they're here.
"We don't bother with a lot of Thanksgiving rituals," Paula continues. "Jamie says grace in the kitchen as we all join hands in a prayer circle. And then it's eatin' time. We laugh and eat and rest and eat some more. Humor is so much a part of us -- if you don't laugh, you cry."
"I've always loved Thanksgiving," says Michael [Groover, Paula's second husband, whom she married in 2004]. "But my best one was probably the first one with Paula. I'd found a soul mate who could cook. You know, for so many years I thought my Momma was telling me to marry a kook. Years later I realized she was sayin' I should marry a cook. I couldn't go wrong because I did marry a kook who turned out to be a cook."