Are y'all humming the theme to Rob & Big now? Good. Mission accomplished.
Today my separated-at-birth sister, Heather, posted about her love of a certain famous southern personality who happens to be the greatest cook this side of Heaven. Reading of her affection for this bright shining star was no surprise to me, because as I just said...Heather and I (and Mrs. R.--can't leave her out) were quite obviously born of the same woman and then cruelly ripped from this precious being's arms and given over to the fine women we now call "mother." We will be reunited one day. And it will feel so good. (Thank you, Peaches and Herb.)
But I harbor a secret that only very few know. Those in my small, inner circle are aware of this secret. (Vicki--feel the love, my friend!) It has to do with a very famous southerner who has several shows on Food Network. She counts butter, mayonnaise and cream cheese as her three favorite ingredients. (She is dead correct on this matter, too.) She has two sons who are easy on the eyes and also enormous Georgia Bulldog fans, thereby making them extremely brilliant in my opinion. I own all her cookbooks, some of her merchandise, and subscribe to her magazine. Martha and Rachael are mere wannabes. The Real Big Deal is the particular lady I'm referring to.
I know there's zero need for an introduction, but for you Yankees (bless your hearts) and Under-a-Rock Dwellers, I'll spell it out for you. Delicious goodness, thy name is Paula Deen.
Lemme tell y'all all about my relationship with the one and only Paula. But first, a preface...
In my 33.5 year existence I have had a few brushes with fame. At the age of 18, while in New York City, I stood thisclose to Flava Flav in Planet Hollywood. He was drunk. He stunk. I was unimpressed. Not too long after this experience I met Steven Curtis Chapman backstage after a concert. He signed an autograph, posed for a picture with me and my best friend, and I decided then and there that Mr. Chapman was way more impressive than some clock-wearing rapper from Public Enemy in need of some serious Sure. Please don't raise your hand, Mr. Flav--'cause you ain't Sure.
When I was 23 and dining at the Olive Garden in Macon, Georgia, a beautiful woman walked by and my father exclaimed, "Hey--that's Trisha Yearwood." Well, of course it was--she's from a little town not far from my neck of the woods. So what did I do? Being all fangirl I marched right up to her table and said, "HEYILOVEYOU!" She was gracious and surprisingly talkative, two words sometimes used to describe me! (Talkative more than gracious, of course.) She asked my name, introduced me to her then-husband and the rest of her family and told me they'd been watching Georgia football all day. She had on the UGA sweatshirt to prove it. Now I was a big fan of hers before this, but seeing her in person and with a Bulldog sweatshirt on? How I didn't faint is beyond me. And thank God she didn't catch me wiping drool on my sleeve. I LOVE TRISHA FOREVER. Plus, "Perfect Love" is one song I want to live in, all comfy-cozy and tucked in tight. Good, good stuff. I love you, husband of mine.
For your listening pleasure, if you can bear to pause in this suspenseful tale.
I've posted before about my late, famous cousin, Paul Davis. Yes, the Raley genes run deep and wide, and I'm convinced one of my girls will inherit Paul's gift of song and/or songwriting and become the next Alison Krauss. Or not. Either way it's OK. But I'm sad he won't be singing at Libbey and Mrs. R's son's wedding. Sigh...RIP.
Here's Paul's biggest hit. Still rocks. In a mellow kind of way.
Moving on...see? Talkative. Or verbose, as an unnamed friend recently outed me. I happen to love you, unnamed friend who lives in Georgia and knows me from way back when.
These brushes with fame (family members notwithstanding) have been little highlights of my life. Yet none compare to the story of how I met my close, personal friend, Paula Deen.
On August 1 of last year, Scott and I were in the Atlanta airport waiting on a connecting flight to Austin, where we go each year for a boring medical convention. We always make a stop at the airport's Budweiser Brew Pub because they have really cheap appetizers. We fill up before boarding the flight and receiving the obligatory bottle of room temperature Dasani and Eagle Brand Pretzels. YUM--flight fuel!
There we are, noshing away on whatever grease was being fried up at that time and in walks Paula Deen and her husband, Michael. They sit RIGHT NEXT to us. Here's the play-by-play recap of what followed:
Lula: SCOTTY! That's PAULA DEEN. PAULA DEEN! OHMYHEAD, should we say something? OHMYHEAD they are RIGHT THERE. Get her attention...I HAVE GOT TO CALL MAMA, LIBBEY, ROBBIE AND THAT GIRL I ROOMED WITH AT 4-H CAMP IN 6th GRADE! (Yes, I was squealing...but in a whisper.)
Scotty: Stop. Kicking. Me.
Lula: What should we do? OHMYHEAD. I'VE GOT TO CALL MAMA.
Scotty: Stop. Hitting. Me.
Because he loves me so, or because he was fearful of being all black and blue for his big speech at the boring medical convention, Scotty leans over and asks, "Mrs. Paula? I'm sorry to bother you, but my wife and little girl are big fans of yours."
And the our world is rocked because she and her husband are all, "Visit with us, why don't y'all?"
Um, OK. And can we fawn and stutter and babble and dissolve into a huge gooey mess because we worship and adore all that is holy within you?
First things first: Since I'm introducing my close, personal friend to you fabulous readers, I'll share the pertinents. Yes, her eyes are really that blue in person, yes, she had some serious rocks on her fingers, yes, her accent is really that thick and yes, she smokes like a freight train. I so love her realness. And I so love her for telling me that I "still sound like Georgia." Praise be to God.
She asks me about Libbey, because that's what close, personal friends do when they visit, ya know? I tell her every time we're in Walmart, Libbey points her out on those overhead TV monitors. Mrs. Paula goes, "You know, you are the second person this week to mention I'm on in Walmart. Michael--did you hear this? I'm in Walmart, baby!" She asks our names and where we're from. Of course Scotty is all polite and professional and replies, "We're Scott & Leigh Anne Litton, from southwest Virginia." Faster than a speeding bullet I interject, "BUT I'M FROM GEORGIA!" Because, you know...common ground...she's my kinsman and all. Or kinswoman. Whatever.
We had stopped our eating and drinking by this point because really, who wants to eat airport food in front of THE Paula Deen? But the waitress brings Mrs. Paula and Captain Michael plates full of chili cheese dogs, mozzarella sticks and cheddar fries. I tell her, "The world would love to know that Paula Deen eats like this." Her reply was tremendous: "Honey, I crave this grease and get it every time we're at this airport! This is the highlight of my trip, darlin'." She is a soul sister. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.
By this time other people (hangers on--sigh--so annoying) in the Brew Pub are starting to figure out that Someone Special is gracing their presence. Autograph requests commence and Scotty and I continue talking with Capt. Michael. He had an iPhone (still the new, hot commodity at that time) and when Scotty (my techno-gadget-geek husband...did I mention the boring medical convention we were heading to was for electronic medical records? I rest my case.) inquired about it, Capt. Michael proceeds to not only show Scotty how it works, but also gave him a peek at his very long list of contacts. I attempted a surreptitious glance, but didn't see Emeril or Giada DeLaurentis' names.
Toward the end of our visit with our new best friends forever, I ask Mrs. Paula if they are returning home to Savannah. She tells us yes, and that they'd been in D.C. to be interviewed by Larry King. She asks us if we've ever been to our nation's capital and we confirm. Then she shocks us by asking, "But do y'all like it there? I was really underwhelmed. Weren't you, Michael?" We all laugh and Scotty mentions that we have to get ready to head to our departure gate. Capt. Michael asks where we're heading and Scotty tells him, "A boring medical convention in Austin." And this is where Scotty falls in love with Mrs. Paula:
"Please tell me you are a plastic surgeon! I am in need of help, don't you think?"
Scotty picks himself up off the floor (with no help from me because I'm involved in my own conversation with Capt. Michael about how he's lusting for an eye lift) and tells her, "First of all, I'm a family physician, and second of all, you do not need any work done, Mrs. Paula." She gets all gushy over this and I begin to wonder if the Queen of Southern Cooking is going to run off with the Hottest Nerdy Doctor in the World. OK, Paula...I love you, but no making eyes at my man, please.
Scotty asks her if she'd mind signing an autograph for Libbey, which she graciously does...and I turn to her adorable husband and say, "Libbey would love to have yours, too!" And this is where Capt. Michael falls in love with me, 'cause he's all, "Awwww, yeah--it ain't just the wife getting the fame lovin' here." She signs, "Libbey--Best Dishes! Love, Paula!" He draws a little picture of a face with a hat and "Captain Michael." Adorable.
Finally, Scotty asks if he can take a picture with his cell phone and Mrs. Paula says, "Come over here, Leigh Anne...(sigh... she said my name...). You get between me and Michael. You can be the cheese in the sandwich!" I obliged, quite happily. And because I love my readers, I will now share this bit of wondrous love with y'all, previously unseen by anyone not in the Roth or Litton lineage:
And what's with that flat, lifeless hair o' mine? Oh yeah...Atlanta+humidity=the reason my hair is now short. Even though I don't live in Atlanta.
There y'all have it. My brush with fame. The story of my close, personal friend, Paula Deen, as I've now referred to her ever since our intimate encounter. BFFs forever. As far as I'm concerned, at least. The next time you see her on a magazine cover, or in the movie Elizabethtown (I love you, Cameron Crowe, but Mrs. Paula outshone even Orlando and Kirsten in this mess of a flick!), or whipping up a casserole or pie on one of her shows, you can think to yourselves, "There's Lula's BFF." And you know, six degrees of separation makes y'all her close, personal friend now, too!