Thankin’ my Lucky Stars for These Beautiful Women

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By Paula Deen

I could never choose just one thing that I’m especially grateful for this Thanksgiving, but I can narrow it down to five—the five women I can’t imagine living without: Aunt Peggy, Sandy, Corrie, Michelle and Brooke. These women are a constant source of strength and inspiration to me. They’re also fabulous cooks. So in the spirit of the season, I want to share these women and their signature dishes with y’all. And I think you’ll be thankful I did.

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Mama was the first great woman in life, but when she passed away, my Aunt Peggy—who couldn’t be here for the picture—stepped into that gaping hole in my heart and showered me with so many blessings. I suppose we both filled a need in each other since she never had a daughter of her own (she has two boys). The fact that she didn’t was sure great for me. To this day, Aunt Peggy is my biggest cheerleader, my mentor, my best friend and the woman I want to be when I grow up. She’s also Queen of the Sweet Potato Soufflé. She makes it from scratch every Thanksgiving. And if that soufflé isn’t on my Thanksgiving table, then I must have the wrong day.

The beautiful brunette on the left is Sandy, my brother’s girlfriend. Sandy has been one of the most wonderful additions to our family. She and Bubba met on the Paula Deen Cruise two years ago and they have been together ever since (talk about the love boat!). Sandy’s strings are pulled so tight—she has it all together. She’s such a well-rounded, balanced woman who understands the importance of family and a delicious pot of Low-Country Boil—makin’ her a perfect fit for the family!

And then there’s my precious daughter-in-law, Brooke. From the moment I laid eyes on her, I thought, “Oh my goodness, it’s game over for Jamie.” I just knew she was the one. And in addition to being a loving wife, Brooke is a fabulous mother. I know that Brooke cares about her boys with all her heart. This allows me to just enjoy my grandchildren as a grandmother should, and that’s a real gift. Brooke is also doing her part by passing along the “Deen cooking gene” to her sons. She always has Jack in the kitchen, helping her mix up the ingredients for her Homemade Meatloaf and I know that once Matthew is big enough, he’ll be right there too.

Like my niece Corrie, Michael’s daughter, Michelle, is the best daughter a woman could have. This past summer, Michelle gave me the most unselfish gift I’ve ever been given; she allowed me to stay in the delivery room when my grandson Henry took his first breath. So you know that there’s a real connection there—a love connection. Y’all, that woman cooks with her whole heart. I suppose that’s why her Banana Chocolate Gorilla Bread is to die for. There’s nothing better.

And Corrie, well, she’s my angel. She’s the little girl I hoped to have one day—and in a lot of ways we’re two peas in a pod. Growing up, she’d stay with me every Friday night and I’d take her out to eat. You know what that child would order? Catfish. Every time. And then on Saturday mornings she’d beg me to take her to yard sales. “We goin’ bargain sale?” she’d ask. I couldn’t love that child any more than if I’d given birth to her. In fact, I think I love her more because I didn’t. Corrie was the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen, but boy was she bad. And demanding. I don’t think she slept a full night until she was five years old. It didn’t help that I spoiled her rotten, but I would’ve done anything for that child. Perhaps in spite of me, Corrie has grown into an incredible woman. She loves the home and everything to do with it, from decorating to cooking. And y’all, that girl can make a Kentucky Pie like it’s nobody’s business.

Y’all, these five women bring me more pleasure to my life than you could ever imagine. I love ‘em all so dearly and I’m proud to say that they’re part of my family. And I hope you make their signature dishes part of yours.

Read More From Holidays and Entertaining.

Read More From Thanksgiving.

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Reader Comments:

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Hello Paula , I have to tell you I made your grandmas divinity and it was perfect. I have never had it come out so wonderful before. Thanks so much. You are great Dianne Bjork

By Dianne Bjork on December 22, 2013

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dear paula I watch your tv. show i would like to eat at lady and son with you one day you are so happy and a beautiful lady i love to watch your holiday recipes love your fan Shirley

By shirley abel on July 06, 2013

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Paula, I just love your hair....my mother-in law is a hairdresser and said that you wear wigs...i find this hard to believe...Can yoy set the record stright....Thanks Donna

By Donna on November 03, 2012

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Hi Paula i watch your show almost every day you are such a beautiful person you don't have a evil bone in you your cooking is to die for but your sons are so handsome i want to watch bobby show but my money don't cover that channel any way stay sweet and happy thanks for your recipes and advice Mrs Bickham

By marionbickham on May 02, 2012

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Why don't we get to see more of your aunt Trina? We would love to see her more on the show.

By Greg Kantner on December 07, 2011

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i think you are one of the most beautiful womem and i mean inside and out i am wishing you and your family a merry christmas god bless you all

By linda poole on December 06, 2011

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I watched your Christmas Special. It was very heart warming and funny. I just love your family. I did however miss Brooke and the boys. It just didn't seem complete without them. Hope you and yours have a great holiday season!

By Cheryl Myrant on December 05, 2011

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HELLO PAULA... YOU HAVE WONDERFUL FAMILY... YOU MAKE ME HUNGRY EVERYTIME I WATCH YOU ON TV.. LOLOL... I LOVE TO LEARN HOW MAKE GOOD FRIED CHICKEN AS I COOK MAKE IT NOT TASTE GOOD AND GREASY... HOW CAN I MAKE IT FAVOR TO IT.. I AM HARD OF HEARING AND PART OF DEAF AS I WEAR HEARNING AID.. I AM KEEPING WATCH YOU ON TV EVERY DAY... YOU ARE THE BEST COOK.. LOL I WISH I COULD DRIVE UP THERE AND VISIT WITH YOUR FAMILY AND EAT AT YOUR RESTURANT FOR SURE.. HAHA... BLESSING EVERY DAY.. HAVE GOOD MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR .... BARBIE GREEN

By BARBARA SUE GREEN on December 03, 2011

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My life is so similar to yours,born and raised in Charleston, S.C, lived in Fla. since Mom died in 1970, have Identical medical issues as well as two sons who I bought your cookbook, Savannah and sons for before you were famous and raised them in the kitchen. You are a beautiful representative for southern women, especially us whom have carried on the traditional dishes that we were raised with! But remember that then most of the family was hearty but not overweight,so I too, beleive in genetics, as you told Dr. Oz, whom I rarely watch, but when I knew you would be on I watched. Paula, I too smoke. Why can someone judge you for that or high fat cooking? I thought that your response was great. It is not your responsibilty to monitor peoples eating habits. What you offer is so much more wonderful than that. Well, I just love you to peices,you are like being home again and I hope No one changes you. You can practice moderation in smoking and be just fine. I love you just the way you are. I am a little sick of this world trying to make everyone over. We all just need some home cooking, and family and friends and we have a wonderful life. What's so wrong with that? Anyway, I felt compelled to say that. In my book, you are a beautiful, loving, creative and accomplished woman who needs only to be loved and admired, Not changed. Thanks, Ma'm Paula, you are my inspiration!

By Nancy Raye Parkins on December 01, 2011

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Hi Paula Deen, You have a lovely family. You are a great inspiration to many women too. Like my friend Pat. We Call her Patty Deen because she does a great impression of you. It is so funny. But she loves watching your show and does get alot of recipes from you. She says it is always so good. So I'm writing you to see If you might meet her someday or even give back some kind of way. I would be a super great day in her life if you could cook together or some way correspond. I can make a video of her imitating you to send you it is cute. My name is Hettie. you can reach me at phone number [removed by admin].She doesn't know Im writing you. Hope to hear back from ou soon. Sincerely, Hettie Bea Avenenti

By HettieAvenenti on November 25, 2011

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paula i never use to watch cooking shows before i saw you on the tv.you are the only one i watch.thanks for all the wonderful recipes .

By margaret blazio on November 24, 2011

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Happy Thanksgiving to you Paula and your family! Lots of wonderful recipes and inspiration come from watching you cook.

By Sue on November 24, 2011

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Paula, Happy Thanksgiving and I do not know, whether you remember me after alll these years. I think, it was Year 1999 I came to your Lady & Sons and we talked, shared some of my Srilankan Dishes with you and you gave me you signed and gave me the very first cookery book as a gift. thank you Paula. Since then lots of things have changed, I lost my husband & raising both of my kids by myself. I also visit to Tybee Island few times a year. But just before Xmas we come over to Tybee on my husband's b'day on the 22nd.I was a friend of Barbara's. Hope to vist you one day soon. thanks and I still enjoy your cookbook every week.Thanks for your wonderful family and all that you're sharing with us. we love you. Happy Holidays!.

By Selvy Thomas on November 23, 2011

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PAULA, HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND YOUR LOVING FAMILY. WOULD LOVE TO SEE MORE PICTURES OF JACK AND MATTHEW TO SEE HOW MUCH THEY HAVE GROWN. BEST DISHES FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS

By WANDA on November 23, 2011

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I am thankful for you Paula!!! I just adore you--you always bring a smile to my face and a hungry growl to my tummy!!!! I hope you and your whole wonderful family have a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!!! Thanks for everything, Barb Wall

By Barb Wall on November 23, 2011

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Happy Thanksgiving, Paula!! You are such a wonderful inspiration and just plain, awesome human being. I love your show and your family and friends. Hope these upcoming holidays are the best ever for you!

By Mary on November 22, 2011

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Those words you said about the women in your live have to be the sweetest. They are very lucky to have you.....even though I have never met you I know those words come from your heart. Enjoy this three little boys they grow up way too fast, my oldest little grandson is 19!

By Pam on November 22, 2011

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Paula, You are a blessing in my life and there is something you have done for me that you have no idea about. My family( husband and two boys,Graham and Cody) lost out house and everything we owned to a fire on Oct.2,2004. A week later I found a lump in my left breast. It was cancer. I was so depressed because of losing everything( second time it has happened to me,I was in a tornado also)and now with me being sick we could not replace our home. Insurance paid off the mortgage, what we had on contents went for gas,medicine and dr. bills. It has been seven yrs. and we are still not back home. My husband has been trying to get s.s. disability because his work let him go because of his health 3 1/2 yrs. ago. So now along with his health and my health we do not have jobs or any income. I also lost my mama in Sept.2010 to cancer. It has been rough to say the least. I could and still watch you whenever I can( do not have cable) and you always make me laugh. I would have either been crazy of dead by now if not for finding things to laugh about. I pray for the day that we can replace our home because we now have a grandson named Avery and he doesn't get to visit us much because the home we live in now is my in-laws old farm house that's over 100yrs. old. It has no insulation,heat,cooling and it also has mold that bothers us all. He doesn't need to breathe all of that. Each day of life is a gift, and I pray one day soon things will get better for us because I'm running out of stuff to sell so I can pay light bill and internet (Cody goes to school on line)my sons and daughter in law are wonderful in understanding about the money situation but it's hard for me. I don't have any money to get a little something for them for Christmas so I'm going to try to sell my car. It's the only thing I haven't sold. But I wanted to tell you what a blessing you and your family have been to my family.My youngest son loves to cook! Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to you and yours. Thank you all so much for what you have done and do for me and my family. Love to you all!! Ormond,Lori,Graham,Amber,Cody and Avery Whitted ,1525 Indian Springs Rd., Mount Olive, N.C. 28365

By Lori Whitted on November 22, 2011

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Omg Paula I love u dearly! That just about brought me to tears reading what u said about those beautiful women in yur life! They r so lucky to have u in their lives. I lost my mom 10 years ago and I miss her so dearly every minute of my day and still cry and talk to her! She also was a super cook' I love cooking too and my eldest daughter also loves it too! My twin brother lives in Georgetown Kentucky and I love visiting! The south is so beautiful as I feel flying over Kentucky is very like Ireland all green and lovely white fences all around u! I love watching u cook as I first saw u on Oprah and loved u and yur southern accent immediately such a warm kind and beautiful spirit u are and I just love yur smile and laugh! U brighten up my day Paula and I just wanted u to know! Until the next time! All my love Dee xx ps wud love to meet u sometime in my life!!!

By Deirdre (dee) Seymour on November 22, 2011

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This reminds me of Helen Owens...runner up for Miss S.C. in the late 50's. She passed 2 years ago. I miss her.

By Kelly Frost on November 22, 2011

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love the table paula would look good on my new patio. so glad you are back. I hope to get there to see you in person one day.i will start tomorrow to find the patern form the tablecloth.
Gladys Rainesl in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I just want to say this I don't even know if is the right page all I ever wanted to say to Paula Deen welcome back I have missed you. You are my favorite home down girls keep your head up and hang on and feel the love. P.S. from a woman of color.
in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I just love love love the table and flowers and am so glad that I can still access all of Paula's recipes, her family life, Bobby's lighter versions and Brandon's beautiful work. Truly thankful to see such beautiful tablescapes. You guys are my heros.
Patricia in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 9:14 am