For some reason, for the people of NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, the fame of Paula Deen is a great and peculiar mystery, similar to why people choose to live anywhere outside of our nation's major metropolises. However, thankfully, our liberal conscience in audio form got to the bottom of it all. Despite the fact that her calling is to put deep-fried misery on a plate, she reminds people of the kind aunt they never had or something:
"She makes an amazing apple pie!" Michelle Morgan chimed in.
Apple pie, really? I was scratching my head, trying to make sense of the crazy-for-Paula phenomenon. Doesn't everyone have an apple pie recipe?
And then it dawned on me. It wasn't about the pie. It was about Paula.
On stage, Paula started laughing and telling stories. Each of us felt as if she were speaking directly to us. We'd each just pulled a chair right up to her kitchen table.
"She reminds me of my mom," Alison Keen told me. "Just hanging out in the kitchen."
At a time when lots of people live alone, or have fractured families, knowing Paula Deen fills a void for people, even if it's on TV.
"They feel an intense emotional connection, I think," explains food anthropologist Christine DuBois. "She's very natural, very warm." And for some, DuBois says, "she becomes that wonderful neighbor or that grandma who's missing in our lives."