Food Network star Paula Deen will visit an area food bank and Hershey Theatre Friday, Sept. 30.
Food Network star Paula Deen will visit an area food bank and Hershey Theatre Friday, Sept. 30. (FLIPSIDE - File)
When Paula Deen is not in her kitchen, she's in her bathroom.

The Food Network star keeps a sofa, chair, coffee table and desk in her Savannah, Ga., powder room, where she called in from on a recent Thursday. "I have everything I need," she said with her signature Southern drawl.

When outside, Deen prefers to wander the city squares that are shaded with Spanish moss.

"It's a walking town," she said. "She's a beautiful place."

But Deen added that Savannah is too hot in the summer -- it's better to visit in the temperate winter or spring.

When Deen visits Hershey on Friday, she said, she probably won't do much touring, since she has a tight schedule and will be at the New York City Wine and Food Festival the next day.

While in the area, Deen will stop at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to donate 25,000 pounds of meat through Smithfield's Helping Hungry Homes program.

Later that night at Hershey Theatre, Deen will chat with fans and do a cooking demo. Deen said she'll probably prepare a pork dish, but had a hard time picking her favorite recipes. Southerners love their barbecue. Her family prefers fried pork chops. And pork tenderloin is simple.

"You're looking at fridge-to-table in 25 minutes," Deen said.

Deen's husband Michael Groover will provide some comic relief.

"He has just a dry, quick-witted sense of humor," Deen said. "It makes it easier to leave home (when he travels with me)."

Family is the most important ingredient in Deen's life.

"I was raised by a group of wonderful, strong Southern women (who) were fabulous cooks," she said.

Deen's parents and grandmother, a restaurateur, made the biggest impressions.

"Hardly a day goes by that I don't mention (them)," she said. "I can get in (the kitchen) and, just as I did last week, make a big pot of chicken and dumplings. I can't help but think of that as being my daddy's favorite food."

Deen, of Albany, Ga., (pronounced Al-BIN-ee by natives), did more eating than cooking until she turned 18, married her first husband and had to prepare meals on her own.

"I realized . . . my mother wasn't going to show up," she said. "I really fell in love with the kitchen. It's been my form of therapy."

She cooked her way through the hard times. Her parents died. She got divorced. She suffered from agoraphobia and money problems while trying to raise her two sons -- Bobby and Jamie.

In the late '80s, she started a meal delivery service and, a few short years later, opened her first restaurant.

"I would write out (recipes) long-hand with a pencil on notebook paper," she said.

Once she landed a show -- "Paula's Home Cooking" -- on Food Network in 2002, the writing was too much to handle. She hired a team to test recipes that would be added to her bestselling cookbooks.

Her most recent collection, "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible," will hit stores later this year. The response she received when she introduced it recently on QVC was overwhelming.

"It made me emotional . . . that people were looking forward to my book," Deen said.

It includes recipes from Texas to Virginia and all states in between, Deen said. She included about 25 classic Southern recipes and 300 new recipes that put a twist on the regional dishes.

"I love sharing the art of frying chicken with people," she said. "It can be a little intimidating."

Deen hopes to extend the comfort of the kitchen to readers.

"When we walk out our door, life can be hard," she said. "It's always been my theory that when you walk back into your home (cooking) should be easy and enjoyable. It should be a family affair."

And, so it is in the Deen family.

Jamie prepared food in Deen's restaurants. Bobby ran the front part of the house. Both have cooked with her on TV.

Deen counts her favorite ingredients as mayonnaise, butter, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and sour cream.

"I know I can whip up something as long as I have that for a backbone," she said.

Her recipes might be decadent, but she said they should be made in moderation. She eats more vegetables than fried chicken. And her youngest, Bobby, is even more health conscious.

"He chooses to take my recipes and lighten them up," Deen said. She added that Bobby has a new show that does just that. It's scheduled to air early next year.

Deen admits that like most women she has weaknesses -- spacious bathrooms and chocolate.

During the interview, she was staring at a bowl of chocolates by the phone and a bowl of fruit on a nearby coffee table.

The Snickers won out.

emccracken@ydr.com; 771-2051

Paula Deen, Smithfield donate to Central Pennsylvania Food Bank

Food Network star Paula Deen will stop at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank when she's in the area this week.

Before her Friday show at Hershey Theatre, Deen will donate a tractor trailer full of pork and ham through Smithfield's Helping Hungry Homes program.

Food bank communications director Brad Peterson said that would equal 25,000 to 30,000 pounds of food.

"The meat products are gold for food banks," Peterson said. "It's so hard to get meat donations. A donation of this amount is pretty rare."

The standard amount of meat per meal is a little more than a pound, Peterson said, so the donation would feed thousands.

"(Meat) is the product that people will do without if they are trying to stretch their food dollars," Peterson said.

He added that the donation comes at a great time. September is Hunger Action Month, so Deen's appearance will raise even more awareness about the needs of hungry people in the region.

Flooding from Tropical Storm Lee damaged many homes and food pantries in the region, so the demand for food is high.The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, which is based in Harrisburg, distributes more than 16 million pounds of food and grocery products every year to more than 600 soup kitchens, shelters, and food pantries in 27 central Pennsylvania counties, including York County.

Area food pantries and shelters place orders at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. Protein is so in demand that Peterson said the donated meat will probably be out of the door in a matter of weeks.

If you go

Get a taste of Southern cooking with Food Network star Paula Deen 7 p.m. Friday at Hershey Theatre, 15 East Caracas Ave., Hershey.

The bestselling cookbook author will appear with her husband, Michael Groover, during an interactive show.

Tickets cost $44.75.

Tickets are available at the Hershey Theatre box office, by phone at 534-3405 or online at www.hersheytheatre.com.

Paula Deen's Chicken and Dumplings

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

--- Ingredients for chicken:

1 2 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

3 ribs celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 bay leaves

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 teaspoon House Seasoning, recipe follows

1 10 3/4-ounce can condensed cream of celery or cream of chicken soup

--- Ingredients for dumplings:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

Ice water

--- Ingredients for house seasoning:

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Mix 1 cup salt, 1/4 cup black pepper and 1/4 cup garlic powder together. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Directions

Place the chicken, celery, onion, bay leaves, bouillon cubes and house seasoning in a large pot. Add 4 quarts of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer the chicken until the thigh juices run clear, about 40 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot and, when it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and separate the meat from the bones. Return the chicken meat to the pot. Keep warm over low heat.

To prepare the dumplings: Mix the flour with the salt and mound together in a mixing bowl. Beginning at the center of the mound, drizzle a small amount of ice water over the flour. Using your fingers, and moving from the center to the sides of the bowl, gradually incorporate about 3/4 cup of ice water. Knead the dough, and form it into a ball.

Dust a good amount of flour onto a clean work surface. Roll out the dough (it will be firm), working from center to 1/8-inch thick. Let the dough relax for several minutes.

Add the cream of celery soup to the pot with the chicken and simmer gently over medium-low heat.

Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Pull a piece in half and drop the halves into the simmering soup. Repeat. Do not stir the chicken once the dumplings have been added. Gently move the pot in a circular motion so the dumplings become submerged and cook evenly. Cook until the dumplings float and are no longer doughy, 3 to 4 minutes.

To serve, ladle chicken, sauce and dumplings into warm bowls.

Source: www.foodnetwork.com

Online

Paula Deen: www.pauladeen.com.

Recipes, food news and more: ydr.com/food.

Central Pennsylvania Food Bank: www.centralpafoodbank.org

Hunger Action Month: visit hungeractionmonth.org

Helping Hungry Homes: visit www.smithfield.com/feedingthehungry