This week, the Queen of Southern Cuisine, Paula Deen, revealed to the world that she was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes – AND THE CROWD GOES WILD (but not in a good way). Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain roundly criticized her saying, “When your signature dish is hamburger in between a doughnut, and you’ve been cheerfully selling this stuff knowing all along that you’ve got Type 2 Diabetes… It’s in bad taste if nothing else.” Well, Chef Bourdain, that is most certainly NOT her signature dish. Ms. Deen has been skewered across the internet for the way she cooks and now, they can use her health condition against her… but I won’t.
First, as a woman, I look at the humble beginnings of Paula Deen. She was a single mom, had two young boys to raise and did the one thing she new how to do – cook – and turned it into a wildly successful business. Based on personality alone, she’s also created a wildly successful brand. Now, I’ve watched the incarnations of her Food Network programs for years, and not once, did I ever hear her tell anyone this was good for them, that a steady diet should be made of it, or that she advocated eating like that on a regular basis. No one was forced to make or eat her food at gunpoint. Period. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that her recipes are good for you, most likely they’re not, but I’m a foodie. I understand the history of food and cultural cooking and feel it’s something worth preserving. Having come from the upper Midwest, I can tell you that we were served lots of fried foods, high carb meals and there was plenty of it. It’s a cultural thing. As kids, we would go out and buck 500 bales of hay a day, stack it in a 110 degree hay mow and then go do a full days’ farm work. In winter temperatures of 50 below zero, I remember carrying water to 100 head of black angus cows, 10 gallons at a time, down a long country lane, waist deep in winter snows. After 2 or 3 hours of hauling water, it took a hearty meal to bring the body back up to temperature and replace the calories the body burned off. Hefty helpings of biscuits and gravy, fried chicken and mashed potatoes made with heavy cream and cream cheese, huge portions of home-raised beef – and I paid for it as an adult. Between learning to both cook and eat like that, I fought my weight all my life. Usually incredible food won out over self-control, but my genetics seem to have taken good care of me, since my physician is utterly stumped over my low cholesterol levels and a sickeningly healthy over-weight body. He wants to scold me for being fat, but in my 50’s, my heart is that of a person much younger and I’m unusually fit and fat. There are people who claim that’s not possible, but my doctor will sadly disagree. He wants me to pay for my lifestyle choices and with each annual checkup, he shakes his head in disbelief. I still work hard on the farm with Von and I can still muscle those huge hay bales and work cattle with the best of them. I’m older and smarter now, almost never eat sugar, never eat fast food and am addicted to salads. The weight is coming off, slowly but surely and I do it because I know my luck won’t hold out forever. I too was afraid of developing diabetes – and I knew if I got sick, I had no one to blame but ME!
Truth is, there are roughly 40 million Americans with Type II (non-insulin dependent) diabetes and nearly twice that number who are pre-diabetic. It’s something that most often occurs in adulthood and is not uncommon to women of Paula Deen’s age. The truth is – no one knows why Paula Deen developed the disease. Goodness knows I’ve probably eaten worse than she has and I’ve dodged the bullet for now. It could be genetic and often is, but there are blogosphere “experts out there who want you to know that this woman is to be SCORNED for pushing that diet on people (who clearly have no personal responsibility for their own lives and have abdicated it to a cooking show host) and who then LIED about her condition to the world!
Newsflash, folks. Paula Deen didn’t owe the world a goddamned thing. She didn’t have to disclose her personal health condition and she has nothing for which to apologize. WE are responsible for every morsel of food that goes into our mouths after reaching adulthood. WE are responsible for our personal health and WE have no right to pass judgement on a woman who became famous, not because her food was so bad for you, but because it tasted so damned good and she is a delightful human being. Paula Deen is good at what she does and that is creating incredibly delicious food. The fact that she’s a woman who lives life to the fullest and makes every moment a party, doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to emulate either. Maybe the people bitching so loudly because Paula Deen was the food crack dealer who didn’t disclose her health condition, need to take a look at themselves. We’re living in tough times right now, and when people are more outraged that Paula Deen didn’t disclose her diabetes to the world than they are that Willard “Mittens” Romney won’t disclose his tax returns, there’s something pretty f****d up about that.
And Paula Deen, if you read this – I’ll say what you won’t. “Anthony Bourdain and the rest of your detractors can go suck it.” I love ya’, girl!
Carol Baker is a political writer, satirist, and co-host with Vicki Childs of our Here Women Talk weekly internet talk radio show called BROADSIDED. You can hear their show every Thursday at 11 am Eastern/10 Central/8 Pacific.