Inside Paula’s Dish Pantry

Paula Deen's dish pantry

“The dish pantry is really a storage place for memories: the special platters that hold our holiday turkeys, the peaches we canned last summer, a little vase made of Depression glass that was handed down from a late aunt, the china we received as a wedding gift, collected piece by piece.”—Paula

Don’t you just love it when old-fashioned ways prove to be the best and come right back into fashion again? It makes me so happy these days to see us all cookin’ the way our mommas cooked, planting kitchen gardens, and buying fresh, local food to serve our families.

One of the old-fashioned things that’s making its way back into many homes is the walk-in dish pantry. My Grandmother Paul used to have one at her Riverbend Lodge, and when I was little, I liked to follow her in there and watch her pick out dishes and bowls and pretty pottery to use for her dinner table. The pantry seemed like a treasure chest of special things that were all hers, and I knew early on that I wanted one for myself.

inside Paula Deen's dish pantry

My dish pantry is laid out exactly the way I always dreamed it would be: floor-to-ceiling shelves and cabinets, pull-out drawers for silver and flatware, a place for canning and storing, and a sink for cutting fresh flowers—with all my vases close by. There’s a ladder on rollers so I can climb up and root through the top shelves when I’m lookin’ for something, without having to ask the boys to help me. I stack my most-used dishes on a great old set of shelves that stands in the middle of the room—it used to serve as a dough board in an old bakery where bakers would set dough to rise.

Many of these pieces mean an awful lot to me. Some are family hand-me-downs, some are fancy holiday pieces, and some are wonderful flea market finds. I have collections of salt-and-pepper shakers, chickens, jadeite, silver, and lots of other treasures that hold happy memories for me and my family. I can’t walk into this room without reminiscing about some meal or some event that these things played a part in.

a special plate in Paula Deen's dish pantry

This is one of my Grandmother Paul’s dinner plates. These plates have a special place in my pantry, although they aren’t used that often anymore. I only have a few left, and they are precious to me. Seeing them triggers happy memories of visiting Grandmother Paul’s inn, Riverbend Lodge, and watching her serve up heapin’ plates of steak and fresh vegetables for her guests on these very same plates. I first learned about food and hospitality at Grandmother Paul’s inn, so I guess you could say that these simple plates are part of our family’s heritage.