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Paula Deen greets a crowd at Wegmans

Find video and photos from Deen’s visit here.

From the looks of Wegmans’ parking lot last Thursday, you would have thought a meteorologist had called for an early visit from Old Man Winter.

But when you stepped inside, the crowds weren’t raiding the bread, milk and beer aisles. They were sitting in Wegmans’ second-floor café dining area, patient, polite and relatively quiet as they shared tables and couches.

How else would you expect a crowd to behave while waiting for Paula Deen, the TV queen of Southern hospitality?

Deen’s bus rolled into the store’s parking lot a little after 4 p.m. last Thursday, for a signing of her latest cookbook, “Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible.”

The 600 free tickets that were available to the signing ran out weeks before the event. Fans started arriving to get their spot in line three hours before Deen’s arrival.

Some who made it to the signing bought two, three or even six books for Deen to autograph, for friends and family members who couldn’t make it.

The book itself is written with New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark. It’s a little weightier than your average Food Network cookbook decked out with photos of a TV host.

This book is a fairly comprehensive collection of recipes from all over the South, including everything from jambalaya to the Kentucky Hot Brown to several ways to cook okra.

And, yes, there is butter. Plenty of butter. The vegetarian greens recipes calls for a whole stick of it. But then, Deen points out in her vegetable section that Southerners don’t have any problem eating their greens—probably because they taste so good.

For many who attended the signing, it wasn’t necessarily the indulgence of Deen’s recipes, or the Southern cuisine, that made them fans.

Lots of folks just like her because she seems like a nice lady who isn’t too fussy in the kitchen.

“She makes real food that you are going to serve to your family,” said Jeanine Reid of Stafford, who attended with her daughter-in-law, Lindsey Reid.

Deen’s roasted carrots, roasted rosemary potatoes and gooey butter cakes make regular appearances on Jeanine Reid’s table.

Spotsylvania resident Erin Kidwell likes the fact that Deen doesn’t send her out looking for ingredients she’s never heard of.

“My family’s going to eat more of the meals if they can recognize the ingredients,” she said. “She just seems more down-to-earth, more approachable.”

When Deen finally arrived in the middle of a pouring rainstorm, she and husband Michael Groover stepped off the elevators to a crowd with cell-phone cameras at the ready.

They made their way to the signing table, in front of a faux Southern front porch, pausing to wave to shoppers from the balcony of the dining area.

For more than two hours, people filed through the line and offered up their books for the two to sign.

Now that all those books have made it home, I’d guess there’s probably some good fried chicken sitting in Fredericksburg-area refrigerators.

 

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