A new book on the Food Network offers an interesting take on how Paula Deen rose to celebrity status: In short, America wanted comfort food after 9/11, and Deen served it up in oh-so-generous portions. From Scratch, excerpted in Salon, recounts how Deen's agent noticed how people were cramming into New York City's blue-chip diners after the attacks as opposed to its chi-chi restaurants. He had been struggling until then to get his no-name Southern cook a tryout on the network, but finally hit on the right pitch when he cajoled an exec to walk home from work one day to witness the phenomenon for herself.
“You know something,” agent Barry Weiner is quoted as saying. "One thing that we’ve all learned because of 9/11 is we’re all going to die. We know that. Whether we eat corned beef, or we don’t eat corned beef, or whether we eat fried chicken, or we don’t eat fried chicken, or whether we eat macaroni and cheese or we don’t, it’s not going to make a difference." But "we’re in a world right now where you see a funeral every three hours, you want to feel good." They got the pilot, and Deen's Home Cooking show soon made her star. Click for the full excerpt, or to read about how Deen's empire has hit the skids over the last year. (Read more Paula Deen stories.)