GINNA PARSONS: Paula Deen is the real thing

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

When I found out week before last that I was going to have to go to Oxford to cover a Paula Deen cookbook signing, I was less than thrilled.
I was afraid that Paula was going to turn out to be – like so many celebrities – quite different from the warm, funny person she portrays on her Food Network cooking shows.
My fears were unfounded. I am pleased to report she is exactly the same in person as she is on TV. She took time to speak to every single person who put a cookbook in front of her that day, joking with some, sharing stories with others.
She and her husband, Michael Groover, posed for pictures with fans,and oohed and aahed over babies. I saw at least four people give her gifts: A woman from Tupelo presented her with an Elvis T-shirt, two others handed her cookbooks, and one young woman sent her home to Savannah, Ga., with a beautiful handmade birdhouse.
When it came time for my one-on-one interview after the book signing, she had me pull a chair up right next to her and for 10 minutes we talked about food and recipes like we were old friends. She was graciousness personified.
I bought a copy of her cookbook (because the 500 I already have aren’t enough) and she signed it for me. I was doubtful about whether I’d ever use it or not, given her penchant for using copious amounts of butter, cream and cheese in her recipes, but I actually found several I’d like to try.
This recipe from “Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible” is perfect for the beautiful fall weather we’ve been having. I like the idea of having the squash flesh coated in this sweet pineapple syrup.

Baked Acorn Squash with Pineapple
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon black pepper
2 medium acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeds and pulp removed
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
In a small saucepan, combine the pineapple, butter, brown sugar, salt and black pepper. Simmer over medium heat until syrupy, about 5 minutes.
Place the squash halves, cut side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Spoon the pineapple mixture into the cavities, making sure to cover all the cut surfaces with the syrup. Bake until the squash is tender and golden brown, about 1 hour.
Serves 4.
Note: Paula says to use a strong, sharp serrated knife when cutting your squash because the skin is tough. Make a few cuts in the skin of the squash so it won’t explode and place it in the microwave for a minute or two to soften it up just a little bit.
Ginna Parsons is the Daily Journal’s food/home/garden editor.