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Furniture Scene: Paula Deen

March 18, 2009

I was recently having a conversation with Tom Russell, our associate editor, about Universal’s Furniture’s new licensed collection with Savannah, Ga.-based Southern cuisine specialist Paula Deen. The furniture collection debuts in April.

Tom didn’t know too much about Paula and asked about her appeal to consumers.

Paula’s life story is well publicized, from her troubled first marriage, to her struggles with agoraphobia, to her catering business The Bag Lady - started with $200 - which was so popular that it eventually led to her restaurant The Lady & Sons.

I explained to Tom that I’ve become quite familiar with Paula Deen over the last few years. My mother is a devout watcher of the her Emmy Award winning Paula’s Home Cooking and Paula’s Best Dishes on the Food Network.

While jaunting back to West Virginia for the holidays or weekend visits I’ve noticed a gradual accumulation of Paula’s smiling face - and those of her sons - on cookbooks around my mother’s thoughtfully decorated kitchen.

My mother is also no slouch as a maker of home cooked meals and it’s been a treat to sample Paula’s recipes via my mom. For another chef to have earned a spot in my mother’s kitchen is a big deal in the eyes of us kids.

Mom’s inventory of Paula Deen merchandise includes five cookbooks, the biography It Ain’t All about the Cookin and an apron.

(I can say this about Paula’s recipes - set in for a good hardy nap when you’re finished eating because you’re going to have some serious southern home cooking.)

Mom also attended a fan event in Washington last year along with two of my aunts, two cousins, my brother’s fiancée and various members of her family. It was a big deal.

Paula appeals to a pretty broad cross-section of women and it looks like she even has a talk show coming out later this year.

If it is at all telling, I’ve  seen her cooking show enough to have stored the bearded mug of her husband, Savannah tugboat pilot Michael Groover, in my mind.

This is what my mother had to say about Paula:

“I find her high spirited and enthusiastic. I think women relate to her. She comes off as a very ordinary person with a very family-oriented life. She makes us laugh. On her shows, she incorporates a lot about her life, the good and the bad, and makes her family a part of it.”

I’ll be interested to see what Universal Furniture does with Paula; hopefully we can get a sneak peek at next week’s premarket.

Oh, and Tom Russell has cooked up at least one of Paula’s recipes since our conversation, a macaroni and cheese dish.