It finally arrived...the day I have been waiting for for the last two weeks. Paula Deen signing her book Savannah Style with coauthor Brandon Branch. They were at the Borders in Buckhead, which is about 30 minutes from my home. The signing started at 7:30 and I got there at 7. Even though I was worried about parking, I got a spot super close to the door. I decided to go by myself so that my husband could stay home with the dogs, who have been alone all day long.
I bought the book and got a wristband for the signing. They said she would only be signing the Savannah Style book and one other of her past books at the most and that due to the expected volume of people to show up for the book signing, there wouldn't be any personalization so that everyone could get through the line. I had brought my personal friends and family cookbook that I had made from the recipes gathered for my wedding this past fall and was secretly hoping she would sign it. I was a bit bummed to hear she wouldn't sign anything else, but I figure it was worth a shot.
As I stood in line, I tried to think of what to say when I got up there in hopes of getting her to sign both books and I was counting on a few things: 1) This was a cookbook I started from family recipes, and she is always very family oriented. 2) The picture on my back cover was of me feeding my new husband cheese...not the typical cake feeding picture and I thought that would get a laugh. 3) I have the striking ability to turn the puppy dog eyes on high when need be (this has back fired in the past since I am always the one sent to do anything that needs sweet talking, but more on that another time). 4) I had to remember that the worst thing that could happen is that she didn't sign my extra book, nothing catastrophic would result from that (though, I admit I knew I might be a bit disappointed).
So Paula arrived at the signing table right around 7:30 and talked for about 15 minutes. She explained a little about the book and introduced her co author, Brandon, the photographer and Brandon introduced one of his professors from college that taught him a lot about style and decor. Then she asked for questions from the audience. Everyone was shy at first, but then one woman asked if her son Bobby was single. Paula said that he wasn't married, but that he has given his heart to a young actress that has had roles in All About Steve and Two and a Half Men.
Then someone asked another question that I didn't hear, but Paula went on to tell us about a venture with Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese (http://www.realwomenofphiladelphia.com/) where the prizes include $25,000, the chance to write a community cook book and more...basically a dream come true for me. I will have to think long and hard and come up with some great ideas. That will be my project for the weekend.
I stood in line until sometime before 9 before getting my chance to meet Paula. In watching her interact with the other people in line, she seemed open to chatting a bit with each person and they weren't getting shooed along. Which is what I was hoping based on her personality we see of her on the TV. Maybe I will have a chance to chat a tiny bit.
I finally get up and she is still talking with the person in front of me and had my book signed and the coauthor signed my book before they finished talking. I wasn't ready to just walk off, so the first second I got I showed her my personal family cookbook. She looked at the front and thought it was a great thing I put together, though she said that she thought I wasn't old enough to get married, they don't let 13 year olds get married. I told her I was 28 and she was shocked. And she thought my dress was just beautiful. Here is basically what happened next (keep in mind that it was all such a whirlwind!):
Me: And I thought that you would appreciate that I put a picture of me feeding my new husband cheese rather than cake.
Miss Paula Deen: That is just too funny, that almost looks like watermelon.
Me: Yeah, it is the wine cheese they make.
Paula: Ahh, the port cheese, that is so very good.
Me: So if I wanted to start selling the things I make like my great aunt's sugar cake, what would be the biggest piece of advise you could give me?
Paula (thinking about this a bit...): Well, my story is such a strange one. I started out with just $200 and no training, but I thought I was a good cook. Do you make more than one thing?
Me: I know what you mean, I can't afford to go to culinary school. Yes, I make cakes and cupcakes and other things.
Paula: Do you have a kitchen yet? (me: not yet). Well, you can talk to a church to see if you can use their kitchen so you can get a business license. I worked out of my kitchen for 18 months, even though it wasn't legal. My first kitchen was actually in a dirty pool hall. And start small so that you can grow your business each day. It was easier for me to start small since I only had that $200. I just kept working hard and eventually got to the right place at the right time. Have you worked in a bakery?
Me: I have been wanting to talk to places so that I can get in and learn as much as I can, but I haven't yet.
Paula: Well, my cousin near here has a bakery and why don't you give her a call to see if she has any openings to see if you can get started. And that will also be good so that you can get a chance to see what it is really like to work in a bakery and see if that is something you would like to do for a living.
Brandon: She makes THE BEST Red Velvet cupcakes!!!!!! They are wonderful!
Me: Yeah!?! That is really cool.
(She opens my cookbook and I ask her to sign it, which she does and she even personalizes it for me: Dear Loren, Good Luck and Best Dishes, Paula Deen XO 2010.......yayayayayayayayayay)
At this point, I pull out a piece of paper and am writing down frantically. I am shaking beyond belief and have to ask for the name again. Not only did I get my cookbook personalized, but she also gave me a great lead in potentially reaching the next step in my baking career.
I was so very nervous and didn't say quite as much as I wanted (and stuttered more than I wanted, which I of course left out), but I definitely got more out of the conversation than I ever imagined. She spent a lot more time with me than other people and I was thankful beyond belief for those extra moments!!! Paula Deen was just as earnest and sincere as we see on tv and seemed to genuinely want to give me the best possible advice to get me started. I was on the verge of tears walking out, I was so excited. I immediately called my husband to tell him all about it and then had to call my mom.
I had planned on writing about all this tomorrow, since I am usually in bed by now (hey, I wake up at 6am everyday to make sure the dogs get walks and get play time before work), but I am wound up beyond belief at the moment and wanted to write this all out right now, I didn't want to forget anything. So I set up my laptop next to my husband, who is at the desk on the desktop. I wanted to sit next to him since I didn't get to spend much time with him today (though we did meet for lunch at J Christophers today...I really enjoyed the food, atmosphere, service and company!). He saw that I put up the conversation and laughed so very hard. He said it was awesome that I put the whole thing in conversation form. For the purposes of my self esteem, I will just assume that he was laughing because he thought it was cute that I was so excited that I wanted to write about it all and not because he thought I was overly silly.
Oh and I think Paula Deen is now one of my favorite people ever!!! She was simply delightful and it was so encouraging to spend a few moments with her on such a busy night. I hope to emulate her caring and enthusiastic attitude and I love the way she isn't afraid to be silly. No wonder she is so loved around the world!!!!