Paula Deen's Happy Halloween
The Bag Lady
LHJ: If you had the chance, which of the candidates or their wives would you most like to cook for?
Paula Deen: Well, for me, the person I'd most like to sit down and eat with is still Hillary Clinton. And I almost did! I was supposed to interview her for Paula's Party [Deen's most popular Food Network show].
LHJ: What happened?
Paula Deen: I was going to meet her in North Carolina, where she was campaigning, and I was gonna interview her on the foods she grew up on, and what she and her family like to eat now -- just very light and nonpolitical. But at the last minute her people called and said they couldn't do it, I think because of my relationship with Smithfield. [Editor's note: Deen has an endorsement deal with Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer.] Smithfield's largest plant is not unionized, so my guess is the union people called and said to Hillary's people, "If you allow that woman to interview you, we're going to tell everybody you're not for the union." So the interview was cancelled, and my heart was broken. It was probably political, and that's not my agenda.
LHJ: Do you have an agenda?
Paula Deen: Yes -- bringing people to the table. Bringing families and friends together, surrounded by each other with good meals in front of 'em. That's my agenda.
LHJ: It's incredible, the success you've enjoyed since you started your first door-to-door sandwich business. What was the first thing you bought yourself when you had a little money?
Paula Deen: Years ago I called my ex-husband [Editor's note: Deen has been married to her second husband, Savannah tugboat operator Michael Groover, since 2004], who's in the used-car business, and I said, "I'm driving this lil' Honda hatchback, and I wanna buy me a Lincoln." I wanted the pimpmobile, honey. And he found this used-up piece of crap. And I was so proud of it! Every time I drove by a car wash I'd run it through. I kept me a rag in the car so I could get out and polish it at stop signs. Within a short matter of time, the paint came off the whole hood, like the motor had burned the paint off. I looked like the biggest redneck!
LHJ: Do you feel confident that the "bad old days" are behind you forever?
Paula Deen: You know, no matter how successful I am or how much the business grows, in the back of my head I'll still be The Bag Lady -- the one selling sandwiches. I'll still be that girl who had $200. I'll still be her.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, October 2008.