Food for thought….

I’ve been a bit quiet over here lately. It isn’t that I haven’t had anything interesting to say, I just haven’t had a lot of brain space to type it up in any cogent form, well, except where Paula Deen is concerned, apparently.  You can find that over at Drama Free Fitness.

For the uninitiated, here is a brief recap of the Paula Deen situation.

Television chef and media guru reveals she was diagnosed with Diabetes three years ago but continued to push high sugar/high fat/high calorie foods through various media channels during that time as she worked out her spokesperson deal with a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

For a longer view take a look at the article at the New York Times...right here….

In keeping with the “drama free” moniker I try to steer clear of politic-ish stuff on Drama Free Fitness. For this reason my post over there may actually sound as though I’m defending Paula Deen’s actions which is really not my intention. My post there places its point firmly in the category of “Are people angry at her for continuing to be Paula Deen?”  She’s not a fitness guru, she’s not a wellness expert. She’s a television chef. One of her signature dishes is deep-fried cheesecake, people. That she turned up with Diabetes is not such a crazy leap. The woman has been a ticking time bomb for quite a while.The focus of the post on Drama Free Fitness is more about wondering who Paula Deen will BE in the future, in light of all this.

I wanted to take this apart a little more today after reading some great commentary by friends and acquaintances. As I looked at it more deeply I discovered that the “drama” part of all this does not boil down to one simple issue at all. Everyone I read or talk to who is pissed off about this has a slightly different slant on WHY they are pissed. I’m sure I won’t hit on everybody’s gripe but I thought I would outline a few at the very least, as I understand them. I can do that easily here at Mrs Metaphor. This is not a drama free zone. So, here are some of the issues I did not address on DFF…feel free to add in your own take in the comments.

1)People are angry because she hid the diagnosis for three years.

In my Drama Free Fitness I fall back to the “getting her ducks in a row” excuse which is probably true to some extent. It’s the least drama laden route and one I think has some merit.  That being said, nobody likes to be lied to. In reality, while the possible emotional part of her motive (embarrassment, shame, fear, anger) might be a familiar one to anybody diagnosed with Diabetes, let’s just remember too that she’s got an awful lotta cash to cushion her “fall from grace.” Most of us don’t have the kind of safety net Paula Deen has in place already. It makes her lying seem as though it stems more from greed than anything else. It makes us less likely to cut her some slack.

2) People are angry because she pushed unhealthy foods while she knew she was Diabetic.

One person compared it to cigarette manufacturers pushing their wares while not telling us that they are carcinogenic all those years. That might be a bit extreme. We’re talking about one woman here and I doubt she ever boasted the health benefits of her foods. Even so, it makes a point.

3)People are angry because she flagrantly misrepresents true Southern Cooking.

Having spent 6 years in Nashville I can tell you that I know a number of amazing southern cooks now. They have schooled me well. My friend, Dara Carson has put it this way- “Not all Southern cooks and sacred kitchen traditions are about disregard to health. Southern food is about “gracious traditions,” and though I love a lot of things about Paula, I do hope more people understand Southerners are very health-focused, too. We invented farm-to-table!”   If Paula Deen’s work already casts a shadow on that tradition then hiding her condition only makes it worse.

4)People are angry that she worked out a sponsorship for a drug company before she revealed her illness.

Some say that she waited for greedy reasons, that she was just waiting for her paycheck to come in from Novo-Nordisk before she told the public about her condition. Paula Deen asserts that she was approached by the drug company without their knowing of her condition. It seems a bit far-fetched, I suppose it’s possible. The problem is that while it secures a role for Paula Deen going forward it’s a little odd to ask people to trust your word as you hawk a medication after you’ve just spent three years living a lie.

5)People are angry because she was never a good role model and people bought into it.

Chef Anthony Bourdain has long been a critic of Paula Deen. His biting commentary was already well in force before this announcement came out and he isn’t wrong in his opinion. Paula Deen has built an empire on deep-fried cheesecake. What else is there to say? This announcement though really set him off. After all this time he laid claim to the big “I told you so.” I think his Tweet from yesterday says it well,

Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.”

Whether you agree with Bourdain or not, he does speak to some of the anger showing up around this and I respect that.

I know that I have by no means covered all the angles of this. In fact, there are a large number of people who would come out in Paula’s defense. It’s safe to say that not everybody is mad at her. Her largest base of support is going to keep buying her food, cookbooks, DVDs, what have you. Paula Deen is not going to be living in a van down by the river because she is now Diabetic or because she hid it from the world for three years. She’s not going to go to prison.

She’s not going to be cancelled on TV. She’s not going to lose her book contracts. She is going to continue to prosper, I promise you that.  Maybe that’s another reason people have an emotional response to this. Most of us don’t have the margin needed to sustain a blow to our health let alone a blow to our career. It’s not jealousy, it’s just common sense. Here is a woman who is held up as a role model now for diabetics. Should this multimillion dollar cupcake pusher who hid her condition for three years really be the poster child for Diabetes?

Food for thought.

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