What would the holidays be without food and family? These elements are at the very heart of our celebrations, and no one does a better job of blending the two than Savannah's own Paula Deen. This holiday season, Deen's millions of fans can sample Christmas traditions, Southern style, in a beautifully designed gift book, Christmas with Paula Deen. This collection of recipes, family photos, gift ideas and Christmas stories would put even the Grinch in the mood for a holiday party. Deen took a few minutes from her whirlwind of media appearances to tell BookPage about the new book and her family's plans for the holidays.

You say in the book that when it comes to Christmas, anticipatin' is the best part. What are you most excited about this holiday season?
One word: Jack. He's my grandson who's now walkin', just gettin into a run actually. Just to watch him this Christmas, opening presents, will be the most fabulous gift I could ever have.

What's your favorite Christmas memory from your childhood?
My favorite memory from childhood would have to been when I was five years old. My brother Bubba wasn't born yet, so I was all alone, didn't have to share my parents or Christmas with anybody. Santa was at the top of his game, bringing all the toys I asked for including a baby doll that was just exquisite.

What holiday traditions did your husband Michael bring into the family? Has it been fun to blend your traditions with his?
To tell you the truth, Michael didn't have a lot of holiday traditions before we met. The poor fella was working so much, being off on a ship he just wasn't at home. But he sure gave me my favorite Christmas memory as an adult when he asked me to marry him. The way he surprised me, with the whole family around us, was perfect in the most romantic way.

Why is being home for the holidays so important to you?
I don't know if my Daddy once spent a Christmas away from us, but I remember very clearly that he would never allow us to be away from home at the holidays. And I'm sure that's why it's so very important to me.

Who will do the Christmas cooking for your family this year you or the boys?
I will. And the kids will probably help. But I'll be doing most of it.

What is the one thing you most enjoy cooking for the holidays?
Probably candies, because it's something I don't ordinarily make throughout the rest of the year. I make lots of cakes, pies and cookies throughout the year . . . but Christmas means candy!

Give us your real opinion on turducken: a crazy fad or worth the effort?
You know, actually a turducken is not hard! It would be impossible without a good butcher. The butcher does all the work. You just have to lay one on top of the other, fold it all back and it's ready to go. Now, it does take a long time to cook. But the flavors you get are delicious. My absolute favorite though, is still a fried turkey.

Does anyone in your family actually eat fruitcake?
No. Not a traditional fruitcake. My mama used to make a delicious Japanese fruitcake though. And I have an icebox fruitcake that is very good and the family enjoys.

What's the easiest Christmas cookie for a novice cook to attempt?
Slice and bake cookies from the grocery store (laughs)! Actually, traditional cookies like oatmeal or chocolate chip or peanut butter are all fairly easy to make. I wouldn't suggest a Magnolia Lace Trumpet cookie the first time, but the traditional cookies are easy and just great.

What do you want Santa to bring you this year?
Nothing. Unless maybe another grandchild (laughs). Michael and I enjoy our blended family so much. They've all come together, it's like we've always been together. So if I wished for something it would be another addition to this beautiful family.

When you count your blessings, what's at the top of the list?
My family and the fact that we're healthy and all able to work. God granted us good health and we're thankful for that.

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