Hey, y’all, it’s Paula Deen

I got a call from Paula Deen the other day. Honest. And she didn’t start off the conversation with “Hey, y’all.”

She did at her “Paula Deen Live” show at the Salem Civic Center Oct. 2, though. If she hadn’t, people would have been disappointed.

Paula Deen and Albany High School classmate Meg Hibbert, standing, look at pictures in their yearbook with Paula's husband, Michael. Photo by Kate Dore
Paula Deen and Albany High School classmate Meg Hibbert, standing, look at pictures in their yearbook with Paula's husband, Michael. Photo by Kate Dore

Paula is just a good ol’ gal from South Georgia. That’s one reason I like her. Despite her fame from her two television cooking shows, her own magazine, her wildly successful Lady and Sons restaurant in Savannah and on and on, what makes her special in addition to her Georgia drawl is she puts everything out front. Maybe not everybody can appreciate that, but I did.

Paula was a hoot at her 90-minute-long stage show Saturday night. My husband, Bill, had a great time, and said he enjoyed it much more than Public Radio host Garrison Keillor’s show at the civic center a few weeks ago where Bill was ushering.

Paula and I went to Albany High School at the same time, but didn’t know each other. When she spotted me at the VIP meet and greet before the show, she exclaimed, “You look like me!” People do tell me that; I think it’s mostly our South Georgia accents and the silver hair.

Later, we both agreed we had gotten better looking as we’ve aged.

And when she saw that I had a copy of our school’s “Thronateeska” 1963 yearbook, she insisted on seeing my senior picture. “I remember you,” she said. I didn’t really think so, but she swore she did.

I was a senior when Paula was a sophomore, and our paths didn’t cross except on the football field. I played flute in the marching band, she was a cheerleader. She majored in social and didn’t do well in academic subjects, she unabashedly told the crowd Saturday night.

When Paula called for our pre-arranged telephone interview Monday, I did ask her questions but we mostly just talked as Georgia gals are fond of doing.

I wanted to know what she likes to do to relax when she’s at home in Savannah. “We own the most wonderful place on the river in Savannah on Wilmington Island,” she said. “We moved into the house in January. I told Michael (Groover, her husband) something was missing, so I put me a pond in.”

She went own to say that as a Southwest Georgia girl, “I don’t know the rules about saltwater fishing. I’m used to pond fishing. I cast my line out and go to the bottom. That’s all I need.”

She stocked the one-third-acre pond full of brim – you’d probably say bream – and catfish and widemouth bass.

One afternoon after she and Michael had gotten in from at trip at 2 or 3 a.m., Paula said she slept until noon time and never got out of her nightgown.

“So at 5 in the afternoon I was standing out there in my gown fishing,” she said. And she caught her catfish for supper. “The finest catfish are the little ones when you suck their bones,” she said.

I definitely agreed.

We talked about our old dogs. She has one, Sam, who is blind, like our Hairy Dawg. And she has chickens like we do, only some of hers are rescues from the local mosquito control program in Savannah.

It seems the agency hangs those young Dominecker hens in buckets hanging from trees in the woods, and then checks them for mosquito bites, according to Paula. “My little chickens’ feet had never even touched the ground,” she added. They’re spoiled to the good life now, though, with a coop and a house with fresh running water, she said. “I pick them up and rock them, and I scratch their ears.”

And what was she doing while I was interviewing her? Paula Deen was spot-cleaning her bathroom floor.

Yep, my kind of gal.


For more on Paula Deen’s visit to Salem on Oct. 2, read the article in the Oct. 7 issue of the Salem Times-Register.