Please forgive me. What follows is a rant, complete with occasional foul language. I’m pissed.
THREE YEARS. Paula Deen knew for three years that she had Type II Diabetes. During those 1000+ days, did she offer any hint to the millions of people who adore her and her over-the-top, butter-mayo-lard-encrusted food? No. Instead, she offered up recipes like Cheesy Pizza Dip with Pizza Crust Dippers (which appears under “recently added” on her site). Half a stick of butter plus Italian sausage plus Canadian bacon plus pepperoni plus TWO packages of cream cheese plus bacon. All to be transported to one’s gullet via nuggets of pizza dough coated with olive oil and Romano cheese. I’m gagging just writing this. Maybe you’d prefer the Ooey Gooey Butter Layer Cake? That one only calls for five sticks of butter and three packages of cream cheese, and because too much is never enough, Paula throws in a cup of sour cream for good measure.
Here’s the thing: Both my parents are Type II diabetics. If I hadn’t lost 100 pounds about fifteen years ago, I’d probably be there myself. Let’s just say eating—and obesity—is something of a hobby in my family. So I feel comfortable calling out Paula on her bullshit. She didn’t wait three years to tell the world because she “wanted to bring something to the table when I came forward,” as she told Al Roker on the Today show this morning. All she needed to bring to the table was a simple message: Eat less of my kind of food, and move more. Maybe she could’ve revamped some of her recipes, even, to help people see that you don’t have to use these ingredients in such vast quantities to make something taste good. As many fine Southern cooks can tell you, traditional Southern cooking does not require the excess that she encourages.
And yes, all those Southern women I linked to have written recipes that call for butter, mayo, etc. And you’ll find decadent recipes on my site, like my husband’s all-time favorite Philadelphia German Butter Cake. But in these cases that’s the exception, not the rule. Paula Deen has made a huge living off of showing America how to get fat(ter), and instead of taking the responsible route and acknowledging her lifestyle’s role in her diagnosis, she kept it a secret until she nailed down a paid endorsement gig with a pharmaceutical company. Until one of her sons could get his own show on the air. About cooking healthier versions of mama’s food.
ETA: It’s clear from the comments that some people are interpreting this post to be me criticizing Paula for having diabetes and not telling us. I’ll say it plainly: She was under no obligation to go public, ever. Her medical conditions are her own private business. Yes, I admit, if I found out that she’d merely kept it a secret for three years I’d be disappointed in her—because given her enormously high profile, going public about the lifestyle changes she (I hope) made would’ve helped an awful lot of people. But I wouldn’t have been motivated to rant on this blog about it. What pushed me to write this post was her glaring ethical lapse: She kept it a secret for three years, and then went very, very public, on national television, only when she had a (presumably) significant endorsement deal in place, and her son had a TV show tied in to her diagnosis. THAT is the problem: Her actions create the appearance that she only went public when she figured out a way to use the disease to make more money. Not that she was motivated by any desire to help her many fans. It was a tremendous opportunity for her to help people, and she blew it.
So: No privacy issue here. Nobody’s forcing me to watch her, or to eat her food—I never have, and I don’t plan to. The issue is ethics. Scruples. Responsibility. That’s where Paula failed her fans.