I’m a little behind in my reading with everything going on over here. So, I’m just now catching up on a few of my Time Magazines. This morning I read an article on Paula Deen from the January 30, 2012 issue and just had to sit down at my computer and say something.
The Time Magazine article, written by Josh Ozersky, starts with a picture of one of Paula’s burgers. I remember seeing her make it and was kind of disgusted at the time… not by her, but by the idea of putting what had to have been at least a 2,500 calorie burger in my mouth. The burger bun is a Krispy Kreme donut with icing glaze on it. So, looking at the layers in the picture you see a donut, a burger patty, a fried egg, several pieces of bacon and, finally, another donut for the top bun. (Perhaps it’s one donut cut in half like a bun.) Phew! The article talks about Paula announcing (after three years of knowing) that she has diabetes and goes on to discuss how Paula still hasn’t said anything very helpful with regard to any changes that she has made to her diet. (As a new spokeswoman for an insulin company, on the website she evidently says that her change in diet is comprised of reducing the amount of sweet tea she drinks.) Then the last paragraph of the article says:
No doubt Deen has made some enemies. You can’t create a recipe for Krispy Kreme bread pudding without infuriating a few healthy-eating scolds. But their smug sense of vindication could end up making people like her even more. The U.S. is a strange and conflicted country when it comes to food. We love our tacos, hate our scales and live in a state of perpetual shame. Paula Deen, after cooking all the wrong things so well and for so long, doesn’t seem to feel any guilt at all. And there’s something in us, I suspect, that can’t help but like her for it, even though we know we shouldn’t.
This article is straight-forward. It’s not unkind. It just addresses what the public sees as an issue and talks about the divide between her fans and those who are not her fans.
I like watching Paula Deen, not because of her cooking or recipes, but because of her personality. She always has such a happy face and a carefree laugh. In my opinion, there’s nothing more attractive than happy faces. And Paula has the fun, bubbly personality to go with it. She has a hint of mischief, a load of creativity, a hard work ethic (to get from where she started to where she is now), and a “no one can beat me down” attitude. She loves her family, enjoys life, has a good sense of humor and loves food.
Anthony Bourdain, who is tall and not in the slightest overweight, who travels around the world talking about culture and food, heavily criticized her for knowing that she had diabetes for three years and still was showing people how to make high calorie, high fat, high sugar foods. Blogs and celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon.
I find it interesting… any time a person becomes well known, he/she has supporters and those who criticize. It doesn’t matter what the situation, what the topic, what the focus of the person, there are those who like him/her and those who can’t stand him/her. And the ones “fer” (as the old saying goes in the South) are highly supportive. The ones “agin” are often just mean spirited in the way they critique anything and everything that person does or says. Often it’s done in a way that holds them up high while bashing that person down. I just don’t get that. There is no reason to be nasty to someone just because you don’t agree with them. It’s just uncalled for. I don’t care what Paula has or has not done, what she eats or how she cooks. Those are her personal choices. Yes, she has an influence on people because she is teaching them to cook. There’s no need to agree with her. But, there’s also no need to harrass or be hurtful toward her.
I am not “Southern”. But, I married a Southern Gentleman and love him more than anything in the world. He likes me the way I am and has come to terms with the fact that I don’t cook Southern-style and never will. If Paula Deen is the prime example of the Southern cook, then I can use her as a prime example of how I do things for my husband that he enjoys, but that isn’t “Southern”. One time I saw Paula make collard greens. Into the pot went a stick of butter, a ham hock loaded with fat AND some olive oil. After that she put in a little bit of collard greens (in comparison to the amount of fat in there) that, when cooked down looked like they may end up making about 2 cups of collards. Other than water, I don’t remember what else went into the pot because my brain stopped at all of the fat that was being loaded in.
When I make collard greens (something my husband loves and that I’ve learned to like over time), I melt a tablespoon of butter in the bottom of the pot and load the pot up with enough fresh (or frozen), chopped collard greens to make about 4 cups, cooked down. I “fry” them down in that little bit of butter (little when compared to the previous Paula Deen version). I add a little pepper vinegar, salt and pepper to the pot and keep stirring. Any more liquid gets added a quarter cup at a time until it cooks down. I don’t want soggy greens. By the time I’m done, the greens are cooked, flavorful, and not loaded with fat. My husband and boys love it.
So, yes… I watch Paula Deen from time to time because she really does cook Southern. My husband loves the idea of what she’s making. There are things that she makes that sound very good. I watch what she does and then, if it sounds good to me, figure out how to make the recipe without all of the extra calories. So, I get a flavorful version that isn’t loaded with fat and sugar. I’m actually glad that Paula’s son, Bobby Deen, now has a show on the Cooking Channel called, “Not My Momma’s Meals.” He does the same thing I do (and probably better). I’ll have to pay more attention to his show and try some of his recipes. If I can give my husband the flavor of Southern cooking without all the excess fat and sugar, I’ll sure give it a try.
But, going back to the Time Magazine statement that Paula didn’t have anything useful to say about changes to her diet… give her time. I’m not walking in her shoes so I can’t even begin to say why she waited three years to say that she had diabetes. I’m not even going to guess at her motives, concerns or thoughts about the situation because that’s not appropriate to assign motives to someone when you don’t walk in her shoes.
I do know that Paula’s had a lifetime of her style of Southern cooking. This year I’m relearning some of my eating habits. It isn’t easy. Paula is going to have to relearn a lot of things as well and that doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen until you’re ready to make the changes. Perhaps she’s ready to do so and that’s why she’s finally made the announcement. Perhaps cutting back on sweet tea is her first step. I do know that making a drastic lifestyle and eating habit change just makes you miserable and you end up missing what you had. So, taking this a little more slowly, learning about it, and making changes that will last the rest of her life is the way to go as long as her doctor is working with her on the medications to keep everything in balance while she’s making the effort. Again, I don’t know what she’s doing so I can’t say. But, I can say that I have empathy for anyone who has to make the choice to completely change the way they live their life. It’s not easy. And it is not being a hypocrite to try to change at a pace you know you can stick with for the rest of your life.
So, whether you agree with her or not, don’t go jumping on the bandwagon to be mean-spirited. Just learn from her choices. Learn from her experience. And like me, learn how she does things and then experiment so that you can figure out how to make healthier versions of tasty things.
And most of all… be happy, smile and laugh like Paula. She sure enjoys life and that’s what I like so much about her.
Have a blessed day.