Diane Pfeifer Interview

She's been an actress, a singer, a songwriter and a chemist!!

Now, she's an author.

Diane Pfeifer is the author of the cookbook, "Gone With The Grits Gourmet Cookbook" (Strawberry Patch Books, P.O. Box 52404-P, Atlanta, GA 30355-0404. Tele: (1) 800-875-7242.).

Q. Diane, what exactly are grits?
A. Grits are ground, dried corn. It's basically the Southern equivalent of Cream of Wheat, except its corn.

Q. Where did you come up with the idea for this cookbook? Were you a fan of Margaret Mitchell or the movie "Gone With The Wind?'
A. (Laughs.) Actually, neither of the above. I was in a Sushi restaurant in L.A. and the chef asked me how we make Sushi in Atlanta and kidding around I said we use grits instead of rice. The actual title "Gone With The Grits" was gonna be one of the recipes in the book. When I said it to somebody, we both looked at each other and went, oh that would be a great title! So it's actually probably one of the strangest Southern cookbooks being inspired in a Hollywood Sushi restaurant.

Q. Were you born and raised in Atlanta?
A. No, in St. Louis. I moved here about 20 years ago. So I was really mid-western. I grew up on Cream of Wheat.

Q. Why is the Grand China your favorite Atlanta restaurant?
A. Oh, I just like that particular dish they have, the Cold Noodle dish. I decided to see if I could convert it to grits and so they were kind enough to share their secret sauce for my grits recipe.

Q. Your husband is a professional comedian from New York. What's his name?
A. Jeff Justice.

Q. What's he done?
A. Well, he has done Showtime and Caroline's Comedy Hour and all that stuff. But, he has actually changed his career in the last 3 years. He's still in come­dy but now what he made in a week, he makes in an hour. Now he does corporate seminars teaching stress management with humor. So, he sort of parlayed the comedy club circuit into a very lucrative corporate career.

Q. At one time you wrote songs for Debby Boone, Roy Clark and Paul Anka.
A. Right.

Q. Would they be any songs that we've heard of?
A. Well, probably not. I mean, I had two top 20 coun­try songs with Debby Boone in the early 80's. But, you would almost have had to be a D.J. to remember. The D.J.'s remember 'em. It's been like 14 years. But, it bought me a house, so I don't care.

Q. What did you do as a singer?
A. I toured with Tammy Wynette on the road for a year as a back-up singer. Other than that, I played gui­tar and did a solo act around Atlanta and then ended up dong a record for Capitol Records, and I toured overseas with that. So, that was real fun.

Q. Did you audition for that Tammy Wnyette gig?
A. Yes and no. I had won a local contest in Atlanta just singing by myself with a guitar. The prize was I got to sing for a day up at Opryland. I went up and did my stint at Opryland. While I was there, a girl just hap­pened to be there who told me Tammy Wynette needs a back-up singer in two weeks to go to Vegas.

It's just a 2 week job, but if you want it, here's her number. Then they liked me, and they asked me if I knew somebody and I knew another singer in Atlanta. So, the two of us ended up thinking we were going for a two week job in Vegas. We ended up staying for almost a year, on the road.

Q. Could you have stayed longer?
A. Yeah, probably. It was just too much for me. I prob­ably had just turned 30. I'd never been married. I think after about a year both of us were going, we've had about enough of this bus thing. Nothing against Tammy, but the road is kind of funky if you don't have family.

Q. Were you ever in Syracuse with Tammy?
A. As a matter of fact, it's the strangest thing, I feel like we were, but it's one of those towns that I remember the name. She would get sick. I remember for some reason I never saw Boston. Three times we tried to play Boston and she would get sick before we'd get up there. We'd have to turn around and come back.

Q. What year were you with her?
A. I was with her most of 1980 I believe.

Q. What have you done as an actress?
A. Just all commercials, no movies. I was strictly a commercial actress.

Q. You recorded wrong number messages for the phone company?
A. It's a whole humongous company that I would just go in and do the same as "the number you have reached is not in service at this time." You'd think they would do this one time and that would be it. But, for some reason you have to go in, and do 'em for each phone co. that buys it because it has a certain code at the end of it. I would go in every Friday, and sometimes I would sit there for hours going, "One. One. One." to all these dif­ferent tones to make these numbers sound natural.

Q. In your book you thank Gregg Allman for ordering grits. Why is that?
A. You see you have to read the little story in the beginning, where it says why a grits cookbook. When you read that part you'll understand. After the Sushi Chef thing I said to my husband that might make a good idea for a cookbook, a grits cookbook. He thought it was dis­gusting. So I had sort of made this deal with God, where if you really want me to write this thing, you better let me know. So the next morning, 5 a.m., I'm in the coffee shop, in the middle of Hollywood, and there's only two other people in there. I'm working on some ideas and I hear this guy say, "I'd like a side of grits," and it turned out to be Gregg Allman. I started laughing and I went "I can't believe you just said grits. I'm thinking of writing this book." He comes over and introduces himself and I said all right, all right I'll write it.

Q. How's the book doing?
A. We've probably sold about 35,000. For a regional kind of book it's done very well.

Q. You're a vegetarian?
A. Right.

Q. A strict vegetarian?
A. I do eggs and cheese now. I didn't even do that for awhile. We have a six year old and it's just too hard not to have eggs and cheese once in awhile.

Q. Why did you become a vegetarian?
A. Well, basically health reasons. I cut out all red meat when I was 24. I'm 44 now, and it's been 20 years. I did it originally 'cause I had terrible stomach problems. I think I just couldn't digest red meat. That was an imme­diate thing. I just stopped that altogether. Just very gradually over the years I quit eating chicken and fish, but not for any particular moral reasons or animal rea­sons or anything other than I lived alone and it was cheaper. I got to where I only ate chicken or fish out on a date. Then we were going to such neat places that I would rather have tried the pasta. I was actually one of the few people who was a vegetarian and didn't know it. I just remember one night probably 10 years ago, if not 15, somebody ordering fish for me without asking. For the very first time I thought, you know as much as I like fish, I don't think I want to eat something that was living.

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