Sunday, January 22


Frank Bruni, "Of Mouselike Bites and Marathons". January 21

Jane Black, "What Paula Deen didn't bring to the table". January 20

FULL disclosure: George Eff Will's wife didn't do anything for Rick Perry, and my Poor Wife watches food porn. Two distinctions: my wife doesn't cook, and so inflicts those horrors on no one but herself, and her regular job actually benefits people, and society at large, if you'll pardon my outdated notions.

The Paula Deen pre-obituaries I happened to read were eye-openers for me. I suppose this is something of a disclosure as well, but I have no patience for that deep-fried, mushmouth-and-grits accent. I mean, if that happens to be your accent, fine; what I object to is hearing it from people who are being paid handsomely to communicate with English speakers, unless they are certified experts in some field and speaking to a national audience is not their main gig. Neither is true of Deen. Any time I walked into the room while that woman was on I wondered how she ever finished a recipe in just a half hour with two extra syllables wormed into every word. And I'm from Central Indiana, which, in terms of dialect, is Kentucky.

Plus I swear--this is on scant evidence--that it got thicker as time went on. At any rate, the thing obviously wasn't put on, but that doesn't mean it wasn't phony as NASCAR's good-ol'-moonshine-runners image. You don't have to speak like Edward R. Murrow--hell, you don't have to speak like Edward R. Murrow to read the news, anymore; thanks Roone!--but Indecipherable is schtick. ESPN uses subtitles on people who speak more plainly.

Paula Deen is not some sweet old Suh-thur-un lady who cooks "traditional" fare; she's the product of cable network brass and producers and agents hiding a reality-show on state fair cuisine from the rubes. Has this information not made it inside the Beltway?
The fooderati may brand Deen a menace to a healthy society and a culinary joke. But there’s a reason that her shows are in constant rotation on the Food Network, her 14 cookbooks have sold 8 million copies and her magazine, “Cooking With Paula Deen,” has a circulation of more than 1 million: Americans relate to this sassy, nonjudgmental former single mom. And they like her food.
Are we trapped in faux-balanced everything now like miniature marshmallows and Bac-O-Bits in lime Jell-O?

And this was the first of several things which struck me about the pre-obits: Deen and her deep-fried butter-on-a-doughnut cuisine were somehow accepted as authentic, and the mark of the seriously misguided way our simple-minded forebears did things (which does nothing so much as pat us on the back for the superiority of our herd. Bruni's piece is freaking awful):
The research that [Allison Adato] recounted to me and the book itself, “Smart Chefs Stay Slim,” to be published by New American Library in April, describe a populous crowd of food professionals who work out diligently to keep the ravages of foie gras at bay.

They have private trainers. They play tennis or soccer. They climb rocks or box or do yoga or bicycle or run. Adato’s book spotlights four chefs and restaurateurs who have run marathons, including Art Smith, who cooked for Oprah Winfrey for 10 years and was once more than 100 pounds above his current weight. It could also have name-checked Bobby Flay, who has run three.

Wealthy celebu-chefs have private trainers, and the leisure to work out. Let's emulate them.

Except--as Bruni gets around to mentioning, as really is the point of the piece--the food porn these people put out is just as salacious as Deen's, but grabs the other, more "accomplished", side of the schtick.

Isn't this the fucking point? If Deen's Type II is a message from God, or a piece of irony stuffed with bacon, and cheddar, and Canadian bacon, and Canadian cheddar, then so be it. But is her hypocrisy worse than Flay's because hers comes with a mushmouth and grandma's lack of New York fashionableness, and because Flay wisely doesn't eat his own cooking?

It's not. Classic cuisine is every bit as contraindicated, healthwise, as Deen's phony down-home concoctions, but with less use of potato chips as an ingredient. And dollars to deep-fried Kashi says that the masterworks of those other celebu-chefs--at least the ones prepared out of sight of the customer--owe more than a little to the knowledge that fat, sugar, and salt = flavor.

It's not that Paula Deen has diabetes. Millions do. Millions more have eaten like wealthy piglets and lived to be 95. It's the fact that she hid it until she had an endorsement deal, then--by virtue of being a "celebrity"--gets the opportunity to defend this behavior. It's the fact that no one ever gets called on this anymore provided they're "winning"--winning defined as "making money on th' teevee". The idea that Deen is excused because she moves a lot of magazines--the Lumpenproletariat has spoken, according to the guys in Market Research!--is a sad excuse for accepting a world in which one need not be knowledgeable, or honest, or forthright, to be authentic. Just fool some of the Demos some of the time.

Paula Deen isn't going to become a spokeswoman for healthier eating. That's already established. Th' fuck is someone hoping for that, anyway? Th' fuck do we put up with all the other phonies?


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

And here I was hoping this would be about Pig Newton's big doughnut, and Jennifer Rubin's hilarious reactions to same. (Oh well, I could write that post, if I got off my butt...or stayed on it, actually.)

On topic, feesh has a post with interesting comments re: Paula.

oldswede said...

The late James Beard had an epiphany when he developed heart trouble. His recipes changed dramatically, but it really was too late for him.

Not Enough Rope Not Enough Trees said...

The woman has absolutely no shame. She's now hawking a diabetes drug:


Anonymous said...

I don't figure it's so much this kind of food as the illusion that it's okay to eat like that every day, and in the portions that are presented. For the last few months I haven't yet been presented with a dinner restaurant meal in this country that has defeated me quantity wise and I'm a fairly large but not fat mid-30s guy.

The idea of 'This is How you Eat Normally' and 'This is a Special Treat' seem to have been lost in this fantasy of 'everything is fabulous all the time' but, well, who wants to go thru the effort so why not get a mcmuffin or another 20 nuggets or cheesy bread or whatnot.

I mean, like I hear is true of weed, once a week eating rich is great, but every day, well, y'know, it's not so great, one recalibrates, and then there's a price to pay. There's a REASON gout is back.

Anonymous said...

As usual, I should have said 'that hasn't defeated me' instead of 'that has defeated me'. In other words, the portions are too damn big.

ixnay said...

Beard ate and drank and lived into his early eighties. As Richard Pryor said about his father, "I know which line I'm gonna be in, the long motherfuckin' line."

Keifus said...

Some food pornographic trends are worse than others. "Respecting the ingredients" seems to be on all the shows the last few years, and who can argue that vegetables and healthy animals taste good? Deen's sin, like you say man, is that she's been peddling Hellman's-coated chicken (I watched one episode once) and such as wholesome comfort food. And the fact that she's marketed as some sort of ubiquitously botoxed, spackled, and photoshopped zombie of an "authentic southern mom" is just really disturbing. The diabetes proves, to everyone's surprise, that she's not animatronic.

Of course another reason, for me, that the woman bothers me is that she looks, and speaks, like my mother-in-law to an unsettling degree. Who also goes in for the salty, pile-it-on, stick-of-butter recipes, and evidently did so decades before anyone heard of Paula Deen. I recognize the cuisine, and fear it may indeed be authentic in some horrifyingly American fashion.

(I will say this about m-i-l though: she did introduce me to some basic soul food dishes, for which I remain grateful. Flavoring otherwise poor and basic things with pork and whatnot. But it's one thing to use a couple ham hocks to season a pot of beans or a pile of greens...)

And even Deen, for all her sins, has got nowhere near as much to answer for as the Food Network's invention of "Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee." Pure evil, that one.

I love it when you write about food, DHR. And I'm more of a food porn addict than I'd like to acknowledge right now.

Wilford Brimley said...


Marion in Savannah said...

"Plus I swear--this is on scant evidence--that it [her accent] got thicker as time went on."

It has. At this point her accent is as phony as a $3 bill. This town is full of Savannah natives and I've yet to run across one who sounds like her. She's a blight on the landscape.

the yellow fringe said...

Take the drug Deen says, take the med and cut down a little on the sweetened tea. Wow, suddenly, now she is a health guru too,

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, Sandra Lee is awful. She had a recipe for coffee cake that was so stuffed with butter and sour cream it might do Deen proud. I ate a tiny piece a misguided friend offered me, and it was like a boulder was laying in my stomach for the bulk of the morning.

Anonymous said...

Paula Deen is the Sarah Palin of cooking.

Anonymous said...

I think that everyone commenting here is piling it on a little thick as you accuse Deen of doing. Get over it! She is not making any one of you cook or eat what she makes on her 1/2 hour show or provides in her cookbooks. She is the one with Type II Diabetes. She is the one that has to learn to live with this disease. Just stop already.

Anonymous said...

"The fooderati may brand Deen a menace to a healthy society and a culinary joke. But there’s a reason that her shows are in constant rotation on the Food Network, her 14 cookbooks have sold 8 million copies and her magazine, “Cooking With Paula Deen,” has a circulation of more than 1 million: Americans relate to this sassy, nonjudgmental former single mom. And they like her food."

I'm absolutely, completely sure Jane Black says exactly the same thing about Rick Ross.

Rick Massimo