Would you make this for your family?
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.
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.