My New Favorite Aunt

You know when you’re invited to a large family gathering and you’re filled with a bit of dread. Lots of cheek-pinching and stories told about how you wet your pants in the third-grade when you had to give an oral book report in front of your entire class. But there’s always some wacky, gravel-voiced relative who doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her. So you spend most of your time with her, since she’s the most fun person in the room and you never know what will tumble out of her mouth. And you want to be there when all the choice nuggets do.

I don’t ever watch Food Network since it’s not on television in France so I don’t know the cast of characters. But I hear about them, so I spent an afternoon watching it the other day just to catch up. And while I quickly got tired of the wide-eyed, pendulous Giada, shuddered at the skin-crawling ‘charms’ of Bobby Flay and wondered aloud if it’s just me or if the ever-popular Rachel Ray is looking more and more like an NFL linebacker these days. I did find someone worth-watching amongst the dreck: Paula Deen. Let me tell you, that girl’s a hoot. Watching her, I was reminded of that favorite aunt, who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, who will say or do, or eat, anything.

Watching Paula traipsing about London and Paris on her hour-long special, here’s this southern woman, all wide-eyed and big-haired, visiting one of the handlebar-mustached butchers at my market. Looking her up and down, he proclaims her breasts “Les Guns of Navarone”…and once that was translated for her, what did she do?

That girl just threw back her head and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Tearing into a loaf of bacon bread at Kayser Bakery? Paula went nuts over it. Hot, buttered crêpes at the market? Once she finds out how to say ‘butter’ in French, Paula points out, with all her righteous southern charm, where the crêpe-maker missed a spot.

I can feel my readership dropping off as I write these words, but that girl is a hot-damn pistol. Hey, anyone who can talk about loving the taste of a cream-filled pastry so much that she almost wet herself, or can go up to a French butcher and kiss him full-on the lips, I say, “You go, Paula.”

Like all the butter and bacon she’s constantly jawin’ about, I’m sure Paula’s best taken in small doses. And I had to change channels once she broke down in a gusher of tears as her sons surprised her at the end of her stay in Paris.
Even that was a bit much for me.

So hopefully I can have my reader’s back. Or maybe I’ll grab a few of hers. And when I get back to Paris, I’m heading straight to the butcher. And if Paula ever returns, I’m taking that girl straight to the fish market.

I think this Yankee can learn a thing or two from her.

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  • June 24, 2007 2:54pm

    Each time I hear Rachel Ray say “EVOO”, I feel like kicking someone, but I guess that’s just me. I much prefer Alton Brown’s Good Eats, perhaps because it reminds me of all those science shows I used to watch as a kid, like Bill Nye and the like.

  • June 24, 2007 4:30pm

    Ha ha — the ‘pendulous Giada’ — great phrasing!

  • Val
    June 24, 2007 4:38pm

    I grew up in Texas, and after years of graduate school all over the place, I ended up in San Diego. Now, whenever I am feeling lonesome for home, Paula is the best cure. Just listening to her sounds like the neighborhood ladies and when she cackles about her “freends” it feels like a warm hug. I love it! And find her strangely therapeutic. So, no worries about losing readers. Your fondness for her just further solidifies my notion that you and I are great friends who just haven’t had a chance to hang out yet!

  • June 24, 2007 4:48pm

    Personally, I think it’s really funny how the camera always lingers, lustfully, on Giada’s hands as she washes them. Some director’s got a hand fetish.

  • June 24, 2007 5:11pm

    I have read your blog for a while now and I’m proud of your new found love of Paula Deen. She is a true example of a good Southern woman. I am from Mississippi and are surrounded by these wonderful, true to themselves women who above all, care about good food, good company, and of course good manners.

  • June 24, 2007 6:16pm

    Had to look up pendulous (wavering, undecided, oscillating) but I’ll go with that. I have to admit, I’ve never watched Paula; I feel like my arteries clog just watching that stuff (kind of like the Two Fat Ladies – but I loved them).

  • trace
    June 24, 2007 7:58pm

    I don’t mind Giada to much, but I do wonder if she ever actually eats any of that food she’s cooking. She’s awfully thin. And her teeth scare me.

  • June 24, 2007 8:18pm

    Oh my god, I WATCHED THAT TOO! I had never watched any of Paula’s shows before, but…I was up late last night and it was on. And I like London and Paris so I eagerly watched (glad I wasn’t the only one). And even though I found her laugh annoying, I wish I had her “I’ll eat anything and do anything” attitude. Without kissing random French men. My mum wasn’t as into the show; she mainly pointed out that Paula Deen was fat and it didn’t look good, kind of overlooking how happy she was and…stuff…(sigh). Made me kinda sad.


  • Maureen
    June 24, 2007 9:20pm

    Just this morning we fixed her recipe of French toast covered with praline. If I am going to die….this is certainly one glorious way to go. But just like her recipe….Paula is good in small doses.

  • June 25, 2007 12:31am

    My husband uses the word “boobylicious” to describe Giada.

  • June 25, 2007 12:59am

    Matt, it’s not just you — I cringe every time RR says EVOO, too. Yeeeesh! And people like her?! I don’t get it. I’m also with you on an appreciation for Alton Brown. Must be the exacting pastry cook in me that appreciates his scientific approach. Ace of Cakes is fun in small doses.

    By the way: Great to meet you today, David! You’re charming, even in a rush. You created quite a crowd at Ici. And deservedly so. Cheers, y’all!

  • Brittany
    June 25, 2007 2:13am

    I love Paula!!!

  • Brenda
    June 25, 2007 2:31am

    Good on you, David, for giving Paula a shout out. She’s like the American version of Two Fat Ladies. Only she’s, you know, One Fat Lady. But I love her, too.

    Did you know Giada and Paula are approximately the same size, height-wise. Only Paula looks like she digests food and Giada, well, I’d vote for spits before I’d vote for swallows.

  • June 25, 2007 4:20am

    Paula Dean has absolutely the best show ever on food network. Her butter/house-seasoning/sour cream obsessions are a TRUE INSPIRATION!

  • June 25, 2007 8:04am

    Personally, David, I’m with you 100% on this. I dig Alton Brown’s Good Eats and I dig Paula too. Rachael Ray finds a way to make even extra virgin olive oil sound vulgar and Giada looks like she’s faking an orgasm every time she tastes something.

  • June 25, 2007 10:46am

    Hey David, I’m so glad you discovered Paula Deen. She’s such a hoot! It was weird to see her eating a pat of butter, though.

    Also, if you want to meet another favorite auntie who fits your description of the one who doesn’t care what others think, I’d be happy to introduce you to my Aunt Elaine. She worked for Social Security for 40 years and has seen and heard EVERYTHING. Now she’s traveling around the US in a winnebago with husband #3. :)

  • meg
    June 25, 2007 10:49am

    I’m with you – small doses of Paula Deen are perfect. I watch her on Friday nights and laugh out loud (with the assistance of a little alcohol!) She seems to TRULY LOVE food and appears to have a childlike innocence about experiencing it! In addition, she can deflect rudeness without missing a beat – must be a Southern charm sort of thing.

  • June 25, 2007 12:06pm

    WHAT is the deal with Giada’s creepy, toothy smile? Does it freak any one else out too?
    Got to watch some Paula when I was in New Orleans last winter. That woman has a fantastic joie de vivre!

  • Maven
    June 25, 2007 1:03pm

    I’m a Paula fan too, but I agree, just like butter, a serving at a time is enough and too much makes things “too rich”.
    I love her unstoppable upbeat attitude. This is what Martha Stewart could have been if she’d been fortunate enough to be born and raised in the South.

  • June 25, 2007 1:24pm

    Ugh – cannot stand Rachel Ray! I am with commenter Matt who said she makes him want to kick her.

    I love Giada, but my husband thinks her head is gigantic.

    I love Paula too, but somehow that Europe special made me a little embarrassed to be American – somehow it made Americans and Southerners in particular look stupid (although many of “us” are, so I guess it’s not all that wrong, is it?. But tell me this – why does my chest hurt when I watch her show?

  • Val
    June 25, 2007 1:40pm

    It’s not that Giada just has huge teeth. She has a HUGE HEAD and balanced atop her teeny shoulders she looks like the Food Network Bobble Head doll.

    But at least she really cooks. Don’t even get me started about Sandra Lee…

  • Melissa
    June 25, 2007 1:44pm

    Giada creeps me out. Has anyone ever noticed that she seems to smile at weirdly timed intervals? Don’t get it….

  • BellaG
    June 25, 2007 2:16pm

    Love, love, LOVE the Paula Deen :)
    I’ll have to admit, I don’t cook a ton of her recipes, but I love watching her (and her sons) b/c it’s always a guaranteed good time.

    Rachel–*sigh* I’m just over her. I’m glad she’s gotten more people into cooking and she does go for good, fresh ingredients (unlike the craptastic Sandra Lee). But the grating, gravelly voice, hyper shots of acronyms and the bad trendy clothes and eye shadow have just completely killed it for me.

  • Kami
    June 25, 2007 2:20pm

    Pardon the simile, but if cooking shows are like high school – Giada is the pretty popular one, Rachel is the cheerleader, desperate for attention (EVOO is the most irritating phrase in cooking right now, I blame Rachel completely) and Paula is the one you really pick to be your friend. Mostly because she’s the most fun to trade lunches with!

  • June 25, 2007 3:23pm

    I have a confession to make: I don’t watch cooking shows (ducks!), but I think I’d like Paula Deen because she’s Just Folks. Being a Southerner myself, I’d probably be laughing it up right alongside her.

    I do like to read the magazines- especially Cooks Illustrated and Cooks Country. They take a recipe apart and put it back together again- better than before!

  • June 25, 2007 4:23pm

    I don’t hate Giada as much as I used to — she’s tempered that grimace of a smile into something more human — but I swear she’s more pendulous than she used to be. Granted, I think she is also preggers, but I noticed a significant inflation in her profile in the second season, and suddenly her collar lines plummeted. Hmmm …

    As for Ms Deen, I’m afraid I don’t share your enthusiasm, though I might feel differently had I seen her sucking up butter on the streets of Paris. Still, she’s far from the worst of the bunch.

  • June 25, 2007 6:50pm

    I totally agree about Giada looking/acting creepy and pendulous is a great word.

    I haven’t seen Paula Deen but she does sound like fun.

  • PF
    June 25, 2007 10:00pm

    Giada must have a new publicist – she’s on all the time, and even acting as a judge on the next “star”. . .Miss Paula is soothing, in a banana puddin’ kinda way – but I’ll take the Barefoot Contessa anyday -she’s an uptown gal with a certain je ne sais quoi -her recipies are much more my style (unlike Paula’s mac and cheese w/ a can of cheddar soup and sour cream).

  • Andi
    June 25, 2007 10:06pm

    Oh David, you make me smile..:-)…….You reminded me today, when you commented on the foodnet work cast of characters…….you are so funny……..what a little gossip you are…I love the channel and they are celeb like you in their own right….jealousy . ahhh…but I still loves ya..and Paula Deen is a sweet heart….her recipes will kill ya….but southern cooks cook yummy.

  • drbehavior
    June 26, 2007 3:48am

    If I wasn’t a fan of yours before, your thoughts on and comments about Giada, Rachel, and Paula have totally won me over. Also, the FoodNetwork has come to the point of taking itself so seriously (more like an academic institution than a fun cooking network) that they’re running a contest where people actually embarass themselves on air taking incredibly insulting, personal criticism in order to get a show of there own.

  • June 26, 2007 1:38pm

    I too harbor love for Paula. I think of her as my Fairy Fat Mother.

  • June 27, 2007 12:59pm


    Like the other poster, we call Giada bobblehead..her head is too big for her body! I really think all the success is making her head even bigger..she is now a judge on the Next Food Network star…and her comments seem mean and judgemental..’as if no one has ever seen her first few shows’…she wouldn’t make it passed the judges now…plus Rachel’s pretty much doing her own thing, so they need a new figure head for the network…I guess her cleavage draws in viewers. As for RR…now she is doing commercials for Dunkin Donuts…come on!!! There must be some clause in a Food Network contract thay says you can’t promote Dunkin Donuts and be taken seriously for your own cooking show? Non?

    I like Paula…I think she is real, but I also love Barefoot Contessa. Ina and Jeffrey are just so cute and her recipes are great! I like her Barefoot in Paris book.

  • Jeffrey Harriman
    June 27, 2007 3:45pm

    I met Giada in 2005 at a National Restaurant Association convention in Chicago. She was “cooking” risotto as I spoke to her. I could not believe the stuck up attitude she displayed. I took the risotto and tasted it(away from her) and remarked “…usually, you have to go to a bowling alley to find risotto of this quality…”

  • Caroline
    June 27, 2007 11:25pm

    I still mourn the loss of Sara Moulton, especially her live cooking show. The best thing ever on Food Network.

  • Sandy T.
    June 28, 2007 3:35am

    Bravo to whoever analogized Deen to the Two Fat Ladies – that’s spot on! Yeah, she and Alton Brown are the only two I can stomach on the Food Network (don’t get me started on the clownish, idiotic Ray and the even worse Sandra Lee). I must hang my head in shame and admit that I like her sons’ show as well. Usually a Southern accent drives me nuts, but there’s something about those Deen peoople.

  • Corine
    June 28, 2007 2:55pm

    J’aime Paula aussi car le beurre ne lui fait pas peur ! You describe her very well David.
    De Laurentiis plays the sexy card and she is working it too much for viewers interested in cooking. Her boobs and super white teeth are distracting and irritating. “Just–like–that” she says all the time, in a whispering sensuous voice. Just ridiculous.

  • Jessica
    June 28, 2007 3:02pm

    My husband always comments on how Giada shows exactly the same amount of cleavage in each episode. He also comments on her little flipper arms with her giant alien head. I, too, find her smile scary (and question whether or not she actually eats anything she cooks). And her perfect manicure drives me up the wall.

    I like Anthony Bourdain’s descrption of Rachel Ray: “a bobblehead non-chef.” I can’t believe she’s so popular. EVOO makes me want to throw my shoe at her head.

    Alton’s awesome and I’m pretty excited Food Network has brought Nigella Lawson on.

  • June 28, 2007 6:09pm

    I loved the Paula in Paris special. The Ina one is pretty good as well (she owns an apt. there).

    Okay I do like Giada’s cookbooks. I don’t care about her boobs, whatever. I met her at a book signing and she couldn’t be nicer. At least Giada can cook.

    However, I CANNOT stand Rachel Ray. If she says one more time “hehe, I’m not a chef.” I will scream. She is everywhere, a talk show, magazine, commercials, cover of Triscit crackers. I tried to watch her show. She never makes anything I would want to try and the food looks unappetizing. Why is she so popular? ugh.

    The Food Network is going down hill.

  • tres_chic
    June 29, 2007 2:11pm

    Giada, with her recent enhancements by a surgeon, is sickening me with her boob shots. The last time she bent over in one of her babydoll tops was the last time I watched. Her mouth is enormous; her teeth are gigantic; her demeanor spells F-A-K-E. Those sidewise come-hither glances aren’t sexy, but annoying; her rolled-back eyes, as if she were in the throes of ecstacy,in the throes of ecstacy, are disgusting. When she throws back her head, opens her cavernous mouth, and lets rip with one of those bellowing laughs, my cat jumps behind the sofa. Here is a girl who didn’t know what to do with herself before Mama convinced her to cash in on Grandpa’s name. Now, Mama and all the aunts can rush to the hair stylist, put on some designer duds and sit around Giada’s table, now thinking themselves Somebodies in a town where everybody must be a Somebody — Hollywood, that is.

    As for Paula, I liked her until she became more and more southern, until her accent became more and more hokey, and until her sons and husbands (even the ex-husband) and brother all got on the cash wagon. If your family were doing as well as the DeLaurentiises and the Deens, you’d want your own cooking show, too!

    The Food Network is gradually sliding into oblivion with its emphasis on show business and its de-emphasis on cooking and techniques. Most of us used to watch it to learn something — something more than how much Giada spends on her expensive, Italian shoes. If you want good cooking shows, watch PBS.

  • sonja
    June 30, 2007 11:44am

    on Food Network Canada, we get all these (questionable) programs, and more.. by FAR FAR FAR my favorite is Michael Smith’s Chef at Home. His laid back Prince Edward Island friendliness along with loose non-recipe style is relaxing and gives you lots of great ideas. plus his little son gabe is lovely, and being taught to try many new things! :) hope you get a chance to catch it one day!

  • Cheryl
    July 2, 2007 5:45pm

    OK, It’s official you have the best, best food website,and you’re in Paris. You lucky, lucky guy.

    I just finished reading the, “My New Favorite Aunt” Post. Good Post but,

    I just have to say that you have THE Most Intelligent, Interesting and Outrageously FUNNY people commenting on your site!!!

    To ALL of You I say, “Thank You for your wickedly funny, sardonic comments about Giada.
    It made my day!

  • July 3, 2007 7:16am

    I just saw the “Guns of Navarone” episode, and I totally loved it! I was already a big (not poundage)Paula fan for exactly the same reasons. We have a neighbor who is just like that-says and does what she wants and doesn’t give a damn whether you like it or not, and Paula reminds me of all the things I would want to be at her age (or even my age!)What a blessing to enjoy every moment in life to the fullest… and to have your priorities straight like Paula does (Family… then food!)

  • July 3, 2007 8:31am

    All I know is that when and if Paula does come back to Paris, I wanna take her around with me (or vice versa)!…

  • erin
    July 3, 2007 9:05am

    not only does rachael ray look like a linebacker these days, but she sounds like she just finished a pack of marlboros…i want to tell her to stop, take a breath, and use her ‘inside voice’

  • July 16, 2007 3:27pm

    I was at the Summerlin Las Vegas Williams Sonoma store yesterday and I immediately thought of this post. They have Southern Cooking display with your new favorite Aunt, not to mention a table with The Perfect Scoop and the ice cream makers.
    It made me laugh.