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horrors on no one but herself, and her regular job actually benefits people, and society at large, if you'll pardon my outdated notions.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?