Before Paula became famous, she says she hid a painful secret for more than 20 years. In the book, Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin' , she reveals that she once struggled with agoraphobia, the fear of being out in public.
These days, Paula thrives in the spotlight, but back then, she was terrified to leave the house. "[My] heart would beat so hard and so fast that [my] arms would go numb," she says. "You thought, surely, this was the moment you're fixing to die."
Paula hid the truth from almost everyone—especially her children. Jamie, her oldest son, says he never knew his mom had agoraphobia. "I just thought she liked to stay in the house," he says.
Some days were worse than others. "Sometimes the fear was so great, I couldn't go out the door," she says. "Sometimes I was able to go to the grocery store."
When Paula was a prisoner in her own home, there was one thing that seemed to help. "Stepping up to my stove would help calm some of my fears," she says. "To me, cooking is therapeutic. … You just kind of forget everything except what you've got going on in that pot."
After struggling with agoraphobia for more than two decades, Paula says she woke up one day and took her life back.
"The Serenity Prayer went through my head," she says. "I'd heard it all my life, [but] this particular morning I said, 'Wow, that's what I'm supposed to be asking God for.' It made my life so much easier. In fact, that Serenity Prayer does not leave my head. … 'Paula, forget the things that you can't change. Forget it. Let it go.'"
Paula says that when her parents passed away at an early age, her sense of security died with them. "[My brother] and I lost our parents very young," she says. "We [had] this fabulous childhood, very secure. Then, boom, boom…they were dead."
When Paula learned to accept her and her children's inevitable deaths, she says she was able to start living again.
Paula, best known for her soulful, sinful Southern cooking, brought along two of her favorite recipes for Oprah to sample— fried chicken
and sour cream pound cake
These dishes may not be low in fat, but they're rich with flavor. "I'm your cook, not your doctor!" she jokes.
Paula brought along her signature ingredients—including butter and sugar, of course—to show Oprah how to make her grandmother's pound cake. Although Paula's made this dessert many times, her cooking demonstration suddenly goes haywire! Watch Paula and Oprah's hilarious baking blunder.
Although they never completed the cake, Paula has a finished product that's ready to taste. "With ice cream, [whipped] cream, strawberries and a little sugar on top…layers of goodness," Oprah says.
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