Paula Deen is as Southern as hot buttered biscuits and skillet cornbread topped with butter.
Now, Deen knows all Southerners aren't as passionate about butter as she is, but this Georgia native isn't ashamed to confess she melts over this cow's gift that is present in most of her meals.
"I don't know of a food that you can add butter and it doesn't taste better," Deen said. "Butter is just delicious. It's so much better than margarine. If you are going to have a spread, you should eat the real thing. I'll add butter to anything. I love it on potatoes of any kind, mainly red skinned potatoes. I love white table potatoes, too, with the thin skin. I love baking those because they come out to be creamy, mealy-like texture."
Deen, 64, will be buttering up the folks May 14 when she cooks at The Alabama Theatre at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach as a part of Coastal Uncorked.
"I haven't even heard what my menu is yet," said Deen during an April 27 telephone interview from her Savannah, Ga., home. "I don't know what I'm going to be cooking. I'll find out five minutes before I walk onto the stage."
Members of Deen's staff will decide what food she will prepare during her cooking demonstration.
"You have to keep things rather simple because you don't know what kind of conditions you'll be cooking under," she said. "Being on stage, you're a little limited."
What won't be restricted is the amount of fun she believes she and the audience will have interacting.
"People like to laugh and have a good time no matter where they are," she said.
Her trip to the Grand Strand will not be her first.
She's been to this beach mecca before, although her sojourn here was brief.
"I came to Myrtle Beach one time, and I was there all for 30 minutes," she said. "We parked the car, and I played on the beach. I thought it was one of the most beautiful beaches I'd ever seen."
Deen said she is looking forward to visiting for Coastal Uncorked, although her visit will once again be brief.
"I am only there for that day because my schedule is so busy, and I'm waiting any minute for another grandchild to come," said Deen's, whose son, Jamie Deen and his wife, are expecting their second child. Their 4-year-old son, Jack, has been on his grandma's Food Network shows. Her younger son, Bobby Deen, is single.
Deen is extremely close to her sons, working with them and hanging out with them at every opportunity. They occasionally make guest appearances on their mom's shows, including "Paula's Home Cooking."
"Bobby is in love," said Deen, who owns and operates The Lady & Sons with her sons in Savannah. "I don't know if this cute thing will be able to get him to make a commitment or not. She is a beautiful girl, and she is an actress out in [Los Angeles]. She is the most precious thing."
Deen's sweet thing is her husband, Michael Groover, who will be with her when she heads to the Grand Strand.
"He's cute and fat," Deen said. "And I've probably wiggled up a little bit [from her previous size of 16]."
She laughed after that before answering questions about Southern cooks and cuisine.
Deen said she doesn't know if there is anything new she can teach country cooks here or not. However, she did say an authentic Southern cook is one not afraid of seasonings and has to be willing to step outside of the box.
"As a Southern cook, for example, you will cook a pig and use everything from the rooter to the tooter," said Deen, who added that she makes a mean batch of pig ears.
No matter what's cooking in her kitchen, there are certain ingredients that maintain a presence in Deen's cupboards and refrigerator.
"I'll always keep flour and corn meal," she said. "I always keep eggs, butter, milk, sour cream, cream cheese and bacon."
Bacon just might be tied with butter in Deen's mind since she believes it has serious versatility.
"If you only have a minute to pull something together, bacon will do it," she said. "You can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There nothing better for breakfast than fried eggs and bacon, and then you can have a BLT for lunch. There is nothing better than bacon-wrapped scallops, and bacon seasons a pot of peas like nobody's business. It's is well-rounded."
While Deen is arguably a darling of Southern cuisine, her appeal is definitely not limited to the South.
California, for instance, is one of her biggest markets. She said the women there connect with her in the same ways she vibes with Southern belles.
"I'm very representative of women across the country," Deen said. "I don't think there is a dime's difference between us. Maybe the only thing is our accents."
Deen thinks her bond with fans comes from, in part, her simply being who she is.
"I think I remind them of people in their lives that love them very much," she said. "After listening to people for years, I can't help but think that is what it is. They feel my love, and there is no greater gift."
Her appeal in California also might be a result of folks desiring something different.
When Deen goes there, she said she doesn't alter who she is - she still cooks Southern, using her butter, bacon or whatever else she may incorporate into her dishes when she visits.
"I don't change a thing," she said.
Asked why she believed Californians were so receptive to her Southern style, Deen, without hesitation, said, "They are probably sick of tofu and lettuce."
Simply put, Deen isn't the tofu type. This is a fact folks who aren't fans can quickly discern.
Deen enjoys food with flavor you can savor, which is among the reasons she cites Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse as her two favorite Food Network chefs.
"My husband enjoys Bobby's food," she said.
Who is the Food Network's best cook?
"I prefer my food," said Deen, who prepared a mammoth Easter dinner that included ribs, ham, turnip greens, pineapple casserole, crackling cornbread and creamed corn.
Before ending her phone interview, Deen said she is looking forward to participating in Coastal Uncorked and seeing Grand Strand folks up close.
"I send them my love and best dishes until I get there," she said.