Sunday, January 29, 2012

Battle of the Brands

Would you make this for your family?

Peanut Brittle Smoked Ham Pie

Would you serve this to a guest to your home?

If you've been stuck in a media blackout bunker, trying to hide from the insanity that is the Republican primaries then you might have missed the ongoing bloody Battle of the Culinary Brands.

battle of the brands copy

This current battle really started last August when Tony Bourdain gave an interview to TV Guide. In that interview he slammed Food Network's shiniest stars, Rachel Ray, Sandra Lee, Guy Fieri and Paula Deen. Of Deen he said "the worst, most dangerous person in America … plus, her food sucks”. This is nothing new for Father Tony, he's been bitch slapping Food Network stars for years now but Paula decided to answer back with the tired, old, I'm one with the real people trope. "You know, not everybody can afford to pay $58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine,” she said. “My friends and I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills.” (...and yet I don't see Tony pimping a 3 piece furniture set for $3,600 or a cheapest single ticket to her seven day cruise for $1,500). Frank Bruni, the food critic for the NY Times shoved his way into the conversation, siding with Deen and calling Bourdain elitist which is pretty freaking funny considering the paper he works for and the town he works in. Things settled down for a bit until....

Flash forward to January 17th and Paula Deen is confirming on NBC's Today show that, yes, she has Type 2 Diabetes, yes, she's now the spokesperson for Novo Nordisk and their injectable diabetes drug, Victoza and yes, she's known and has been treating her diabetes for three years. Victoza, which costs something like $500 a month, is not exactly cheap for the common folk Ms. Deen so loudly claims to champion. Mr. Bourdain, looking a bit like a modern day prophet, lobbed this Twitter pie directly at Team Deen's face, "Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later." Bruni, suddenly smelling which way the butter burns, also checked in with NY's opinion on this national story, saying "She had waited three long, greasy years since her diagnosis to come out. During that period, she promoted the deep-fried life without acknowledging her firsthand experience of how a person can be burned by it". Thanks Frank.

Since then it's been a constant tsunami of quotes and public relations web spinning. Paula's longtime publicist left Paula in December over the current direction of Team Deen, thinking she still had a job with her sons. She was quickly released from their employment. Food Network, also sensing bad juju, released their statement that they had no idea whatsoever that Ms. Deen had diabetes. Paula weakly defended herself, blathering something about not being educated enough to reveal her condition. Apparently she also felt a bit hurt that none of her brother and sister celebrity chefs are running to her defense but can you blame them? Actually I'm guessing that the only person happier about this Deen/Diabetes brouhaha is Ina Garten who can now officially come off the Internet Outrage pedestal after having refused a child's Make a Wish request and had her brand ripped up one side and down another.


The most amusing aspect of this whole charade is that those who strongly support Paula Deen's culinary empire (Smithfield Ham, Philadelphia Cream Cheese/Kraft Food, Nebraska Furniture Mart, magazines, restaurant, cookbooks, dvds, cookware and television shows) now claim that her food, her culinary output is only meant to entertain the masses. That she's always preached moderation. That's she's not responsible for what food you choose to put in your mouth. To this we must call Shenanigans! If Paula Deen is only on TV for entertainment purposes I'm guessing companies like Smithfield and Kraft are going to want their advertising and sponsorship dollars back. They are certainly not advertising on her show or on the Food Network as some sort of charitable donation. Hell no, they want Paula's viewers and fans to buy and keep buying their many processed food products. They don't care if Americans get diabetes, they have product to push and now with Victoza, you can keep eating their products and her food and all will be well.

The one thing I agree with out of all this is that no one forces you to eat or cook like a tv chef, food blogger, or newspaper critic. You have to be responsible for your own health and decisions. But there's a reason why the tv show Jackass has huge blazing warnings not to try their stunts on your own....because idiots do. There are thousands and thousands of Paula Deen fans that cook and eat her food with regularity. They find justification in the buzz words used to describe her food: comfort, rib sticking, southern, traditional, country and uncomplicated. Pointing out the unhealthy aspects of her dishes is translated into attacking the emotional resonance that food represents to her devoted fans. C'mon y'all, you'll feel better if you make yourself a big ole pile of my Mac and Cheese and some wonderful fried chicken, just like grandma used to make. That's a pretty powerful pitch. Let's all just remember that above everything thing else it is a pitch. Paula's not your girlfriend and she's not going to invite you into her house to cook you food, Tony's not your buddy, Frank Bruni doesn't really care about your opinions. They all represent Brands that must be fed and cared for. They all have an agenda to push and empires to maintain and salaries to pay. The team you should be most concerned with is YOU and your family. Use the common sense that the good lord gave you and use fresh food in dishes you make yourself, recipes full of vegetables, fruit and whole grains. You can only help yourself build a strong foundation to a healthy lifestyle and in the process make your own wonderful food memories.


MakingSpace said...

You said it all.

froggy said...

Firstly - do not agree with what I've seen of PaulaD's food (and this just from watching the hype).

I am a type2 diabetic. I started on Victoza 6 months ago and it really, really works for me. I pay $184 a month for it due to my wonderful insurance. Hopefully the increased usage will result in an increased drop in price.

Not all type2 people are overweight and out of shape. And it is a growing problem in the world. Some say it is based in western style nutrition.

One theory out there - it is suggested to give up wheat. It has made a huge difference for me (and my BIL a wheat farmer!!). It is also very controversial. More information can be found here
Again it has made a big difference for me and I'm sure other folks can eat wheat with no problems. It is really interesting to follow the evolution of wheat over time.

I feel badly for Paula Deen. She seems to be pretty clueless about nutrition. Hopefully she will learn and pass her learning along.

(And that first picture - ak! she really made that?! Not even for mystery pie!!)

Big Shamu said...

Froggy, a perfect example of someone who is a type 2 diabetic but not overweight and out of shape is Halle Berry.

I just read an article that the thinking is now that it's not just processed wheat but also whole wheat so there may be something to that giving up the wheat altogether.

I don't feel badly for Paula, there's plenty of information out there. Protecting her brand is important to her, to admit now that all the naysayers were right is going to be difficult. Frankly why should I believe her or her sons now that somehow they know what moderation and healthy cooking and eating is?

As for that pie, if you click on the photo, it will link you to the recipe and the reviews of people who have actually made it over at the Food Network. You can buy one from a restaurant in Missouri, and they will ship it to you for forty bucks.

froggy said...

It will be interesting to see what happens. Problem is that I can't listen to her - her laugh - drives me batty. Tried once when she was on Iron Chef and had to change the channel.
$40. holy smoley!!!

Big Shamu said...

Froggy according to the restaurant web site it weighs in at 14 lbs so there ya go.

Captain Obvious said...

CO definitely sides with Bourdain on this.

CO has never liked Paula Deen at all. Deen and the Food Network's excuses are complete BS. She's known for THREE years.

CO is not discrediting all of the work she put in before she found fame with her restaurant and too much hairspray as evidenced by CO seeing her in person as the 'Grand Marshall' at the Rose Parade last year.

CO's wife had gestational diabetes during pregnancy(which could have continued after the baby was born) and no medication was taken. She also has celic disease and can't eat any gluten. CO prepared LOW CARB, LOW FAT meals to help control blood sugar levels. She also rode a stationary bike. The complete opposite of what Deen's empire is built on.

Diabetics don't always need medication to control their blood sugar levels. Deen automatically jumps to being a paid spokesperson for medication.

CO didn't get Deen and Bruni's claim that Bourdain is elitist. As BS pointed out, Bruni worked for the NY times as a food critic..forever! Being the most elite of the elitists.

As Deen is, Bruni is a hypocrite.

'$58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine'

Really? Some of Tony's most favorite things are Pho(CHEAP) and roasted bone marrow(CHEAP). Tony just so happens to eat high-end items on his show because well.....he KNOWS chefs at high-end restaurants/showcase others that are good and they get free publicity on his show by serving their best menu items which happen to be some of the most expensive.

Why do foodies watch Bourdain's, Deen's or any other chef's tv shows? It's food porn, plain and simple.

Deen has America following her like a flock of mindless zombies.

I don't see Tony going around as a spokesman for a deep fried food chain, having a tv show/making millions off of those recipes and contradicting that by also as a spokesman for Lipitor.

Other interesting tidbits besides her longtime publicist quitting:

Just days after bringing us the scathing news that Paula Deen's publicist recently quit, "Page Six" delves even deeper into the Deen family: According to "sources," Bobby and Jamie Deen were initially very unhappy with Paula's plans to endorse Victoza. So unhappy that they almost — almost — met with other talent agents in an effort to move out from under their mom's shadow. But! Paula "put them both under a lot of pressure," and they ended up helping their mom after all.

Big Shamu said...

CO, you and I are pretty much on the same page. I didn't touch on Deen's long history and back story but I don't discount long as it's really true. I'm finding more and more that when folks like this start building their brand, the back story is incredibly important to getting a foot in the door. For instance, take the rise of Ree Drummond from blogging to cooking to writing cookbooks and then cooking tv. I hit her site early on and thought she was funny but also thought she had married into a hard scrabble working cattle ranch. Really not so much, it appears she married into money and is not exactly the most experienced cook out there but seems to want to take over Deen's butter throne. Her fans are just as fanatical and just as delusional as Paula's.

That's interesting about the Deen boys. I'm sure they love their mother very much and if that's true, it's very sad to see Paula exert that kind of pressure on them.
She's spinning hard on the endorsement deal. She's now claiming that she and her sons are working on a new deal and donating part of the proceeds to American Diabetes Association. Which means all the Deens have deals with Novo Nordisk and that no one is saying how much they are paying Paula or her two sons nor how much they are donating back to ADA.

Will we soon be seeing a deal with a nicotine patch company from Ms. Deen?

Dani said...

Ugh. Sad that we ended up here. Who thinks it's ok to eat stuff like that monster in the first pic?

Buzz Kill said...

Paula Deen is one of the few Food Nework chefs that I could never watch. Partly because of the way she spoke (those y'alls always seemed force and un-natural) but mosly because I watch my cholesterol and there is no way I could ever eat what she cooked. Frankly, I always thought she'd have a bypass before she'd get diabetes.

She always seemed to cater to the People of Walmart crowd and that's just not right. Karma is a bitch.

I like a good conspiracy theory too, so I'm right there with you on the whole Victoza branding thing. Can Lipitor be far behind?

troll said...

I don't like ANY of the players in this brouhahaha. Never have and never will.

It would be nice if SOME network had a "Southern Food" CHEF on who actually IS a Chef and makes some of the THOUSANDS of southern-bred dishes that aren't digustingly unhealthy. Could be educational. Maybe Alton Brown could co-host and insert his little history/science tidbits. He's Southern without being a walking drawling stereo-type.

My guess is they would have no problem finding brand-sponsors and such.

Big Shamu said...

Dani, quite a few people think it's perfectly fine. So much so that a restaurant has quite a side business selling it.

Buzz, here's a little set up and quote I pulled off a CBS report after her appearance on the Chew: n a segment of ABC's food chat show "The Chew" that aired Wednesday, Deen said she and her two grown sons, Bobby and Jamie, are working with the drug company's Diabetes in a New Light campaign "because we, like everybody else, have to work."

So she's taking money to pimp this drug because she's so poor that this is her only means of financial compensation? Again, Brand Deen is massively hungry and must be FED!!

Big Shamu said...

Troll, unfortunately it's too late for a new Southern chef on the Food Network. Paula is a HUGE part of their success despite the fact that her food schitck no longer Southern but Cuisine of the Obscene. If they dump her now her fans will revolt and dump FN.
My hope for a true Southern chef is find a home with the folks at PBS to join Lidia, Christopher Kimball and Jacque Pepin.

Captain Obvious said...

CO's favorite cooking show is Avec Eric on PBS. By FAR.

CO would rather see Alton back or somebody like John Besh.

CO tried watching Emeril's show ages ago and it was practically unwatchable. Those applause signs they had in the studio weren't fooling CO!

moi said...

"Cuisine of the Obscene." That's great.

What really gets me is that although, no, not all type 2 diabetics are overweight and out of shape, Deen IS. She could probably forgo the drugs, which are not without unwanted side effects, if she just moved her body a little bit and quit eating such crap. But as you say, this isn't about health or about food.

Big Shamu said...

Moi you're right, exercise and better choices and she could avoid the drugs (and giving up smoking I'm sure would also help) but there's no money to be made that way. Especially if that means actively advocating giving up much of the food products of her other endorsement deals. It's a brilliant business move.....but for the fact that it's sleazy as all get out.

Susan said...

Hey ! y'all - kiddin' it's the Canuck in the bunch here eh ?? I'll confess I've skimmed the comments so hope I didn't miss someone mentioning this - but wondering did anyone see Paula fessin' up to Doctor Oz that she 's a SMOKER - yikes !! I used to smoke, I loved smoking but now I can't even imagine that I did it - the smell of a cigarette makes me cringe - so no wonder all that crap seems OK to her. I don't get the Food Network (sad face - probably just as well). I do see Rachel Ray cook from time to time and I do think she makes a lotta stuff that looks delicious, mouth wateringly so - but we would not eat it. We are a heart healthy house - the thing we 2 obese nations don't seem to get is the concept of "prevention". If a drug can mask the symptoms, and boy big Pharma has us just where they want us, well y'all - bring it on & Super Size me will ya ?

kick ass post Shammy Sham xo s + gang

Big Shamu said...

Susan I am completely flabbergasted at your confession. I never would have pegged you for a smoker. So glad that it's one of your ex's.
I don't think you're missing much on the Food Network front but that's just me.
Funny conversation to be having just before the Super Bowl.
Thanks for contributing to the conversation, ehh.

moi said...

I didn't know Deen is a smoker. Well, now. That's just insult to more injury, isn't it? (Hark, do I hear an endorsement deal with Nicorette?) What a sleazy biatch.

Captain Obvious said...

Hi, my name is Paula Deen.

You might recognize me from such advertisements from Novo Nordisk, which I used to control my type 2 diabetes!

I used to smoke like a dragon.

I've found a way to curb my nicotine addiction.

It's Nicorette, y'all!

chickory said...

Believe it or not I have never seen Paula Deens show! I dont watch food network the only cooking show I watch is Top Chef. I also sometimes watch iron chef but the interest for me there is "plating" not the actual cooking.

I dont care about this situation other than picking on fat chefs. dude, chefs are often fat. look at how many famous labels are fat chefs


aunt jemima

paul prudhome...etc

on to the diabetes thing. this country is #1 i diabetes and a bunch of other diseases too. Im not going to get into being brainwashed into corporate serfdom or the fact that disease management is the biggest cash cow in aMurka. I found my slim, super fitness oriented garage apt tenant in a diabetic coma 3 years ago. interesting that she is a rabid consumer of diet drinks and sugar free products. She may have saved the calories but poisoned the system. just sayin.

now. about mac and cheese. Its one of my best dishes. but I have it maybe...3 times a year.

isnt Hugh Acheson a good candidate for southern chef? I could easily visit his restaurant its about 1.5 hours east.

good post and commentary

Melissa said...

Thanks for the post and the commentary. I enjoyed it.

Very nicely done, y'all!