Dolly Parton Cooks Up Songs In Her Dreams And Watches ‘CSI’, Just FYI

The legendary icon talks about baking cakes, driving through burger joints in a camper and the real way to a man’s heart (it’s not through cooking).
Sebastian Smith

We’ve all done it: Thought of a brilliant idea in our dreams, only to awaken to the reality that it’s total garbage. Well, Dolly Parton does that, too.

“Sometimes I dream a song and in my dream, it was great. I learned years ago to just roll over, take some notes and write it down,” Parton told HuffPost. “But while it was great in my dream, sometimes I wake up and I think, ‘What in the world were you thinking? That’s not good!’”

“I remember I dreamed a song and I was performing it onstage, and it was called, ‘If Our Love Were Matches, It Never Would Burn,’” she recalled. “In my dream, it was No. 1 on the charts! And then I saw [my notes on it] later and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s not as good as I thought it was, I’d better go back to sleep.’”

While we’d all gladly listen to Parton’s discard pile, her bed isn’t the only unconventional place she writes songs — she does it in the kitchen, too.

“Sometimes when I want to write and I’m also kind of hungry, [cooking and songwriting] always go along together,” she said. “I just naturally start having creative thoughts while I’m cooking, so I always keep a notepad over on the side and I write down ideas while I’m singing along, humming along in the kitchen. I’ll think, ‘Ooh, that was a good line,’ or, ‘Ooh, that was a good thought,’ or I’ll record a little melody with a little tape recorder.”

When asked which of her popular songs were written in the kitchen, she said, “It could have been any of them!”

Studies have shown that baking, especially for other people, can be good for your mental health, contributing to stress relief and making you feel like you’ve done something good for the world.

Parton shares that sentiment: “I think cooking is therapeutic, whether you’re cooking cakes or cooking food. It gives me a lot of personal time and allows me time to think and reflect while I’m cooking. I love the kitchen; it’s my favorite place to be.”

To give fans a little sample of what she likes to make in the kitchen, Parton has just come out with a line of Duncan Hines baked goods that honor some of her classic Southern baking staples. Starting in March, you’ll find her “Dolly” cake mixes and frosting on grocery store shelves, emblazoned with a vintage-style image of Parton.

Duncan Hines' new line of Dolly Parton products will be out in stores in March 2022.
Duncan Hines
Duncan Hines' new line of Dolly Parton products will be out in stores in March 2022.

“Everybody loves banana pudding,” Parton said while describing her cake mixes, “but the banana pudding cake has all of those flavors and it lasts a little longer. It don’t cave in and it’s prettier to serve than just a pudding. And everybody loves coconut cake. I don’t know anybody, unless you’re allergic to coconut, that don’t like coconut cake.”

Not one to challenge Dolly Parton, and knowing I had the chance to talk to her about her product launch on the day after my birthday, I baked myself her coconut cake before our talk (it was delicious, by the way, and I’m picky).

Upon proudly flashing her my cake on the Zoom screen, she earnestly asked, “Was it good? Did you put a candle on it?”

I shared that yes, I used a single pink candle because I’d light the house on fire if I used a candle for every year of my advanced age.

“That’s me,” said Parton, who just celebrated her own birthday earlier in January. “I only put one big one on anymore.”

She has fond memories of the chocolate cakes her mom used to bake for her on her birthday and uses food as a love language with her husband, too.

“I love the saying that a way to a man’s heart is through [his stomach]. My husband does like my cooking, but he likes to cook, too,” she shared. “I used to travel a lot when I was touring, so he pretty much had to cook for himself because he don’t like anybody in the house with him except me. We don’t have cooks and people in our house, so I do a lot of my own cooking.”

But lest you think Parton cooked her way into her husband’s heart, “engagement chicken” style, you’d be mistaken. “I think that it’s good if a man likes good cooking, but you’ve got to have a little more going for you than your cooking if you’re going to get one to keep.”

And if you’re stressed out about the idea of trying to impress someone with your baking, Parton says you should just forget about the whole thing. Her advice for people who find baking to be stressful:

“I say don’t bake! Do something else! You need to enjoy it. If it’s gonna stress you out, don’t do it! You’re probably not going to enjoy eating it, either.”

Her other favorite methods to deal with stress? Watching “CSI” and “Forensic Files,” and hopping into her camper with her husband and taking it through the drive-thru for burgers.

You know, just things all regular people do.

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