I think one of the terrible things today is that people have this deathly fear of food: fear of eggs, say, or fear of butter. Most doctors feel that you can have a little bit of everything. ~ Julia Child
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is one of my favorite columnists, but recently, I do believe she went a bit off the rails in her defense of Paula Deen.
For those of who haven't been paying attention lately, Ms. Deen, who has a little cooking empire between her restaurant, her programs on the Cooking and Food Channels, her sons' programs on the same channels, and her endorsement deals for diabetic drugs, got sued by an employee for racial and workplace and/or sex harassment. A few days ago, the racial part got thrown out in large part because the employee and Ms. Deen (and her brother who runs the place) are all white. Then the other suits got "dropped", usually a code for a settlement being reached, but there's been no word at this writing about one.
But, during the deposition phase of the case, it was leaked that Ms. Deen had admitted to using the word "nigger." Well, before you knew it, everyone was doing op-ed pieces portraying Paula Deen as a cross-burning, hood-wearing racist fanatic smeared in grits and butter.
I can't help but agree with Ms. Johnson that this was ridiculous. I'll even go a little farther. "Nigger" is not a southernism. I grew up in northeastern Ohio, where nary a drawl could be heard, and the word was common parlance, as were words like polack, spic, wop, and the ever popular hunky (for Hungarians; not to be confused with "honky", popularized in the '60's by racist blacks to describe whites). It never was clear to me when the last time was that Paula used the nasty word, but it was hardly a reason for a journalistic lynching.
However, what all this did bring out is that there are a lot of people who just don't like Paula Deen. In fact, a lot of Southerners don't care for her. Amongst my fellow Alabamians, the general consensus is that Ms. Deen is a four-alarm phony who is a Yankee's image of what the South is like. It's the "y'alls" that do it. I have explained "y'all" before at some length, so I won't again except to reiterate that real Southerners do not use "y'all" after ever other word.
Ms. Deen y'all's endlessly. "Did y'all see my yawl, y'all? Does y'all's yawl yaw when y'all try to jib? Y'all let me know, y'all." A slight exaggeration, but not by much. The main difference is she doesn't talk about boats much.
She's so chittlin's and corn pone that your cholesterol numbers can go up just listening to her. Which brings us to problem number two.
Ms. Deen's recipes showcase the worst of high-fat cooking. Yes, that's always been an issue with Southern cooking, but her concoctions just seemed to be completely over the top. Moreover, she is (or was) really proud of it. So Ms. Johnson states: "I don’t remember Julia Child being pilloried for pushing butter, and
more butter, but then she was from California and a Smith graduate."
Whoa, Rheta, your claws are showing. Julia Child was most definitely "pilloried" for her use of dairy and fats. She also tried to make people understand that, if there was half a stick of butter in a sauce, they weren't to put the entire saucepanfull on one person's serving. She often talked of moderation in portion size to increase the enjoyment of the different courses. Since you have been to France a number of times (as you've entertainingly told us in your columns), you should be aware of this approach. Ms. Deen has never demonstrated moderation in any form of cooking, right up to the point she learned she had diabetes.
Now different people handle things in different ways. When Graham Kerr learned that his cuisine, rich in butter, cream, and booze, was going to kill his wife (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and about every other risk factor off the charts), he switched to a healthy cooking regimen. After a false start with a been sprouts and tofu type of diet (his wife said basically that it'd be better to die of butter than of boredom), he came up with a marvelous series of cookbooks that came up with healthy ways to cook recipes that tasted sinfully delicious.
Ms. Deen promptly hooked up with a drug company to plug their diabetic product. Oh, and she has her son do a show supposedly cleaning up her recipes so that people could eat them without going into insulin shock. Now if SHE had started doing a show where she showed ways to make her
recipes more available to the high-risk groups, that would be
impressive, but no, she has her son do it (while making her own token appearance on the show to approve of what he's done).
In other words, after eating herself sick (and sending the message to her fans that it was okay to do so), she then profits from the result with a drug endorsement and a new show. She is a Class A hypocrite.
She's the A-Rod of the cooking world. And, that, my dear Ms. Johnson, is why so many people don't like her.