PETER SAGAL, HOST:
There is nobody tastier than chef, restaurateur and TV personality Paula Deen, and her food isn't bad either.
CARL KASELL: Paula joined us for a memorable visit back in April 2009.
PAULA DEEN: Hello, Peter. Hi, y'all. I'm so glad to be here.
SAGAL: We're so glad to have you. Your story is true. You weren't one of those ambitious women who started from the earliest days to go out and get rich and get famous.
DEEN: No, honey, I just wanted to be a wife and a momma. I didn't get started, Peter, until I was 42.
DEEN: I retired first.
DEEN: And then came out retirement to try to earn me a living.
SAGAL: Right. And then you opened your restaurant and then another restaurant.
DEEN: Yes, I started a business called The Bag Lady. You know, I had those two handsome, precious sons, and I kind of pimped them out on the street to sell these wonderful little lunches.
ROXANNE ROBERTS: They really are cute.
SAGAL: Oh, I'm sure.
DEEN: Oh, well thank you, and sweet.
ROBERTS: No, they're gorgeous.
SAGAL: Well, and now, of course, you've got your cooking shows on the Food Network and your cookbooks.
SAGAL: Now, you are known, you're famous, infamous in some circles for your recipes including - and I've just got a short list here: The Cheesy Ham Banana Casserole.
SAGAL: Paul's Fried Butterballs.
SAGAL: Bacon Wrapped Deep Fried Macaroni and Cheese.
DEEN: Yeah, guilty.
SAGAL: But the one that everybody talks about is, of course, the Lady's Brunch Burger. It's a hamburger between two Krispy Kreme donuts.
SAGAL: With a fried egg on top.
DEEN: Yes. And you would not believe how stinking good it is.
TOM BODETT: I believe it.
SAGAL: I believe it.
BODETT: I believe.
SAGAL: I believe.
DEEN: Listen, that kind of happened by accident. It just kind of unfolded.
SAGAL: Wait a minute. Stop.
DEEN: But at first...
SAGAL: Tell me how that happened.
BODETT: A kitchen collision.
ROBERTS: Wait, wait...
SAGAL: No, no, no, I want to hear the story. What happened?
DEEN: It was so good...
DEEN: ...that Michael had just gotten in and gotten to sleep good, because he's a harbor pilot, so he works crazy hours.
SAGAL: This is your husband.
DEEN: Yes. I ran back in the bedroom, and I said, "Michael, you've got to taste this." But there's only one catch, Peter.
DEEN: It's only one serving per lifetime.
SAGAL: You only get one.
ROBERTS: Wait, Paula, this is Roxanne.
DEEN: Hey, Roxanne.
ROBERTS: Now, here's my question, all right, so you got a burger. All right.
ROBERTS: And do you say "oops, I'm out of buns, I think I'll use donuts?"
DEEN: Well, you know, those donuts were there.
SAGAL: Yeah, in the way that they often are.
DEEN: And the hamburger was there. So I said what the heck are we using buns for when we got these luscious donuts?
SAGAL: Let me ask you a question.
BODETT: Paula, I just want to interject here.
SAGAL: Quite literally.
BODETT: Paula, this is Tom. I really enjoy this kind of cooking. I'm just wondering, when I have my heart attack...
BODETT: Do you have anything in your recipe book for the recovery period?
DEEN: You know, I actually do, Tom.
SAGAL: What is that?
DEEN: Well, there's salads in there and other good stuff.
DEEN: In this newest cookbook...
BODETT: Can you name any - one other thing?
SAGAL: No, no, no...
BODETT: Is that your famous fried salad?
SAGAL: You have gone from cook to you're a cookbook author, TV show host. You've got, in addition to your books and your restaurants in Savannah, you've got a line of furniture coming out.
DEEN: Yes, it is so drop dead fabulous.
ROBERTS: Is it covered in butter?
BODETT: Yeah, how do...
BODETT: How do you deep-fry an ottoman?
DEEN: Oh, it's easy, honey, you just dip it in egg first.
DEEN: Y'all are making me sound like a pervert.
BODETT: Oh, no, no, no.
SAGAL: I got to tell you, if we are playing a game, you've won it, Paula. So don't you worry about that.
SAGAL: But no, I have a serious question. The serious question is this, is that...
SAGAL: ...there are other people who have achieved what you have and have become kind of purveyors of lifestyles. There's Martha Stewart, in which everything is just so, and perfect and artful and graceful. And then there's, you know, like William Sonoma, in which you're supposed to be a wealthy person in Napa.
SAGAL: How would you describe the Paula Deen lifestyle? I mean, is there a way you can sum it up, your worldview and what you're selling?
DEEN: Yeah, I think in one word. Peter, if I had to choose one word, I would say comfort.
SAGAL: Uh-huh. We got a lot of nods from the audience.
DEEN: You know, I love the comfort food. I love - I want, when you walk into my house, I hope it says to you, "Oh, come in." I want people to feel like they're coming home.
SAGAL: So you're at home, Paula, at your home in Savannah and I want you to do me a favor. I want you, if you can, to tell us what is in your refrigerator right now.
DEEN: Oh my goodness, my refrigerator is slap kadap full. There's pumpkin cake on the counter. There's a caramelized apple cake on the counter. There's a standing rib roast that I had left over from the other night. Let's see, I'm coming in here to look.
DEEN: Let me see what all is in here. Oh my gosh, so much chicken and lasagna and lots of sour cream and butter.
DEEN: And mayonnaise, there's tons of mayonnaise in here. And, oh, there's a bowl of fruit.
SAGAL: How'd that get there?
DEEN: I don't know how. I must have got that from my grandson Jack.
BODETT: That's got to be the loneliest bowl of fruit in the southland.
DEEN: Let's see what else is in here. Oh my goodness, let me tell you...
SAGAL: What else? What else? Go on. Go on. Keep going.
DEEN: Let me tell y'all what the best thing in my refrigerator is.
DEEN: It's a chocolate brownie cobbler. It will knock your socks clean off and into the washer.
DEEN: It is fabulous. And listen, listen.
DEEN: Michael, I just walked in here in the kitchen and Michael is sitting down eating. Guess what he's eating.
SAGAL: What is he eating?
DEEN: Yes, he is. Wedge potatoes with...
SAGAL: What a blow.
DEEN: He has made a vow to lose 95 pounds by Christmas and then he said he's going to write a book: "How I Lost 95 Pounds and Married to Paula Deen."
SAGAL: Well, Paula Deen, we have invited you here to play a game we're calling?
KASELL: It's colorless, flavorless, vaguely slimy and yum-arriffic.
SAGAL: That's right, Paula Deen, we are going to ask you three questions about tofu.
DEEN: Oh yuck, I can't stand it.
SAGAL: We figured that would be the case.
SAGAL: This, of course, is the Asian miracle food. The yen, if you will, to the fried Twinkies' yang.
SAGAL: And if you get two...
SAGAL: Tofu. If you get two questions, two out of three right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners: Carl's voice on their home answering machine.
DEEN: Oh gosh.
SAGAL: So Carl, who is Chef Paula Deen playing for?
KASELL: Paula is playing for Sandy Williams of Trenton, Missouri.
SAGAL: All right.
SAGAL: Like every other important thing in life, tofu has a legendary origin. According to ancient Chinese lore, how did tofu come to be? Was it A: trying to fool enemies into thinking his army was larger than it was, an emperor decreed that soybeans be molded into large white, fake soldiers?
SAGAL: Was it B: a wise man tried to come up with an immortality elixir and instead came up with tofu? Or C: a hundred pounds of soybeans were hidden from thieves down a well, and when brought up, had been transformed?
DEEN: Oh, my goodness. I will take B.
SAGAL: You'll take B.
DEEN: I will choose B.
SAGAL: That somebody was looking for an immortality elixir, the secret to eternal life?
SAGAL: And came up with tofu instead?
SAGAL: You're right. That's what happened.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
DEEN: You're kidding, Peter.
SAGAL: According to Chinese legend, his name is Liu An. He was the son of an emperor. He went up in the mountains to produce the secret to everlasting life. Instead, came back with tofu, which everybody thought was pretty good anyway. All right.
DEEN: Oh, my goodness.
SAGAL: That's really good.
DEEN: I can't believe I got it right.
SAGAL: You did. You did, Paula. A good heart will lead you every time.
SAGAL: Here is your next question. Over the years, tofu has been credited with various, almost magical powers: some good, some bad, including which of these? A: if you eat nothing but tofu, it'll make your irises - that's the colored part of your eye - it'll make them milky white? B: tofu can make your sweat smell like fresh blueberries? Or C: it can make you gay?
DEEN: C. It can make you gay.
SAGAL: It can, Paula. You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: It can make you gay.
SAGAL: In 2006, a writer named Jim Rutz, who was very exorcised over this, tried to start a crusade against soy products because he noted that it had trace amounts of estrogen, the female hormone. Ipso facto, eating too much tofu can make you gay.
DEEN: Michael, I'm so smart.
DEEN: He said uh-hmm.
SAGAL: He's busy...
DEEN: And pretty too.
DEEN: When is say something stupid, he says, "Oh, you're so pretty."
SAGAL: Here, Paula, is your last question. Tofu is sometimes a source of controversy, as it was just recently when what happened?
A: prisoners at Angola State Prison in Louisiana sued successfully the warden, saying the replacement of their cheeseburgers with soy cheese tofu burgers was a violation of their rights? Was it B: a Colorado vegan was not allowed to have a custom license plate which read "I love tofu" because the DMV said it was obscene? Or C: students at a high school in Florida all refused to eat tofu because of a rumor that it was boneless processed lizard meat?
DEEN: Oh, my goodness. I would say A.
SAGAL: You're going to go for A, that the prisoners successfully sued.
SAGAL: Saying that making the meat tofu was a violation of their rights.
DEEN: Yes. Yes.
SAGAL: No, actually it was the license plate.
DEEN: You are kidding.
SAGAL: I'm not. I'll explain why. Kelley Coffman-Lee, this is the name of the woman. She loves tofu. She wanted to tell other drivers that, with a license plate that read, and I'll spell it out for you. I L-V T-O-F-U.
DEEN: Oh, no. No.
SAGAL: And the Colorado DMV said the message might be misinterpreted. That's what happened.
DEEN: Oh, my gosh.
SAGAL: Isn't that crazy?
DEEN: That is crazy.
SAGAL: It's just nuts, but it happened. Carl, how did Paula Deen do on our show?
KASELL: Well enough, Peter. Paula, you had two correct answers, so you win for Sandy Williams.
DEEN: Yay, Sandy.
SAGAL: Paula Deen is the host of "Paul's Home Cooking" and other programs on the Food Network. She's the author of numerous books. Her latest is "The Deen Family Cookbook." It's out now.
SAGAL: Paula Deen, what a joy to have you with us. Thank you so much.
DEEN: Oh Peter, it's been my pleasure.
SAGAL: It's been fun.
DEEN: Best dishes and love to y'all.
SAGAL: Thank you, Paula. Take care.
DEEN: Bye-bye. Y'all too.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.