Paula Deen, racism, and social change

"Elizabethtown" New York Premiere - Inside Arrivals

Back when Barack Obama was first elected President of the United States in 2008, some of us felt pretty good about ourselves. Racial prejudice was over and done with, and we were living in the New Jerusalem.



But, presciently, a New York Times commentator at that time (I think Charles Blow) told us not to be so sure of ourselves. I wish I could find his exact quote. I paraphrase: “American racism is coming to an end, but it’s not dead yet. It’s going to become more concentrated, like sea-salt crystallizing as seawater evaporates.”



This image has come back to me over and over again over the past five years.



Most recently, Paula Deen, whom you would have thought would have been smarter, has shown herself to be a racist idiot of the crystallized-seawater variety. In recent depositions, she spoke defiantly about using the n-word in casual conversation. She defended herself by explaining that she was once held up by a black man.



Well, Paula, then that’s okay! We forgive you! Use racial epithets as much as you want!




Paula has asked for forgiveness via Internet video three times over the past few weeks. She is often tearful, which clearly demonstrates that she’s the victim here.



The great revelation here, for me, was doing research for this blog. I learned that there are a lot of people here in the USA who don’t like black people, and who use the Internet freely!



Man alive.



Have you seen this commercial?:



It’s a cute little girl asking her (white) mother if Cheerios are good for your heart. Mom says yes. Little girl runs into the living room and dumps a bunch of Cheerios on her (black) father’s chest.



Now go on line, look up the video (use search terms “interracial Cheerios”), and see what comes up.



Filthy and vile.



Now how about this commercial?:



Now go on the net and read the comments (search terms “International Delight bouncer”). You won’t need to go far to find something really atrocious. Imagine: a white woman admiring a black man’s body!



I won’t tell you the names of the websites I found these on. If you do the same searches I did, you’ll find the same kind of comments.



I was disgusted by them.



But – you know what? – go look for them. I want you to be disgusted too.



It’ll do you good.



It’ll show you, more forcefully than I can tell you, the kind of world we live in, and what we’re up against.



Paula Deen deglazes herself on the “Today” show

Today - Season 62

Some emotions don’t have names in English – “Schadenfreude,” for example. Another, for which I know no word in any language, is sympathetic embarrassment: watching someone make a fool of him/herself, and becoming embarrassed on his/her behalf.

Watch this video of Paula Deen on Wednesday’s “Today” show with Matt Lauer, if you think you can endure it.

Here’s the story in brief: back in May, Paula was deposed in a case in which she and her brother were accused of sexual and racial harassment. She was asked if she’d ever used the N-word, and said, “Yes, of course.” She also said (under oath) that she was sure she’d said it more than once. (She later defended her use of the word in two ways: she was once held up by a black man, and she’d heard black people use the word among themselves.)

When the deposition became public, the Food Network and Smithfield Foods dropped her like a hot buttered potato with extra sour cream.

She apologized on video, not once but three times. Each apology is more excruciating than the last. They are the apologies of someone who’s angry at being caught, and who doesn’t understand exactly what she’s done wrong. In one, she begins by apologizing to Matt Lauer for cancelling her Friday appearance on “Today.” Yes indeed, Matt Lauer’s the offended party here!

She is deeply unrepentant, and deeply insincere. If you didn’t have the bottle to watch the video above (I don’t blame you for that), the most salient point is that she’s deeply hurt by all this, and all those liars, and all the evil people who are working  against her!

What liars? Who’s lying? People are reacting to her own statements. But she doesn’t get that.  “I is what I is,” she says at one point to Matt in the Wednesday-morning interview, as if that’s a justification for doing whatever the hell she likes.

Yes, Paula Deen. You is what you is. You is a not-very-bright person who doesn’t really feel for other people, and you really don’t care about hurting their feelings or offending them.

Late update: Wal-Mart and Caesars Entertainment (who have Paula Deen-themed buffets in four of their casinos) have dropped her, after seeing the Wednesday-morning interview.

(Listen, those of you who love her: Paula will be just fine. There are enough Paula Deen fans to keep her going, for a while, especially in the American South. Her nationwide operation may be a little – hm – cut back, but she’ll probably survive this.

(Her brother and her sons (who have linked their careers to hers) may be cooked, however.

(If so, however, I hope they’re cooked in deep fat and served with gravy, the way Paula would like.)

Paula Deen, diabetes queen


I have written about Paula Deen at least twice before.  She is one of those (you should pardon the expression) larger-than-life people who command your attention.

Her backstory is admirable.  She had something like agoraphobia, needed to work, started cooking and baking and selling food, and is now a small industry herself.  She is cheerful and funny.

Her recipes are atrocious.  Do I need to tell you again about her “English Peas” fiasco?  Not to mention the fist-sized balls of peanut butter and powdered sugar, or the bread pudding made with Krispy Kreme donuts. 

Paula, you see, discovered some years ago that primates like us crave sugar and fat. So: her recipes revolve around those two things.  (I will not soon forget her show on which two big muscular guys carried a huge block of butter to her on stage, as if it were a royal palanquin.  Or the recent incident in which a  muscleguy smeared butter on his abs and commanded Paula to lick it off.  And she did!  And then rode him around the stage.  But I digress.)

Paula discovered a couple of years ago that – gosh! – she had developed adult-onset (type 2) diabetes.

She did not speak of this until very recently, when she struck a deal with a drug company, Novo Nordisk, to become their spokeswoman.

Guess how she’s dealing with her (at least partially self-inflicted) disease?

She’s walking on a treadmill.  She’s not drinking sweet tea anymore.  She is (presumably) taking medication.

She continues, however, to be a spokeswoman for Bad Sugary Fatty Food.

Kids: turn away from her.  Don’t watch her show anymore.  Ignore her.  I did a few years ago, after the Krispy Kreme bread pudding.  She’s a freak.  She’s cute and winsome, but she’s not a role model.

Even Fox News agrees with me.  And how often do you suppose that happens?

Sheen and Deen


Revolution and upheaval in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Oman, Iraq.  Labor protests in Wisconsin. Budget battles in Washington.


And who gets all the attention on all the TV news shows?



You know who I’m talking about.


Well, it’s hard to ignore someone who says things like “I have Adonis DNA and tiger blood.” Also that he has an “army of assassins.” Also that he has “the brain of a 10,000-year-old and the boogers of a seven-year-old.” It’s like trying to ignore a naked man riding a unicycle. It’s just impossible.


But it palls after a while, and becomes sad and sickening. Yesterday I was reading yet another Charlie interview, in which he was asked to react to his father’s very measured appeal for reason. Charlie called it “bollocks.” He’s tired of being labeled an addict, he says. Also, he was angry that his father called addiction a disease. Charlie challenged his father to (I paraphrase) “walk through a cancer ward and find anybody who looks as good as me.”


Well, that’s that.



I’m as morbidly curious as anyone else. But I keep thinking of the Hogarth print of sophisticated Londoners giggling at the lunatics in Bedlam Hospital.


I’d like to think that I’m a better person than they were.


Let us move on to something more pleasant.


Paula Deen, about whom I have written before, made a stage appearance recently, during which she went on and on about her “britches fallin’ down.” (It’s much cuter with a Georgia accent.)



Then a big guy came up on stage, pulled up his shirt, and smeared butter on his abs.


And Paula knelt down and licked the butter off.  (Watch the clip if you don’t believe me.)


And then the guy got down on all fours, and Paula rode him around the stage, while Paula’s big bearded husband watched with a big goofy smile on his face.


Okay. Fine. These are the end days. I admit it now. I surrender. I will worship any deity who will rescue me from this insanity.



(Oh, Paula, Paula, Paula.)


(Oh, Charlie, Charlie, Charlie.)




Paula Deen: full of love and lard

I receive emails from the Food Network from time to time. Today’s email led with a PAULA DEEN RECIPE: FRIED MAC AND CHEESE.


A less appetizing photo you cannot imagine. It looks like a slightly burnt pound cake with a flat mealy crust. And I’m pretty sure they put a filter on the camera to keep the grease from sparkling in the light.


Please don’t get me wrong. I’m all for carbohydrates and fats. My grandma used to eat bread with lard on it, so it’s in my genes. And I’ve been known to double the amount of butter and cheese in a ho-hum recipe, just for kicks.


But Paula is – well, “over the top” doesn’t even describe it. It’s stunt cookery. How can we make this recipe even gooier than it already is?


She is also, hm, lazy. New York Magazine was kind enough to highlight her recent online recipe for English Peas. Be sure to read the users’ reviews too.


Memorable moments from her show:


  • In one episode, four shirtless guys carried a coffin-sized slab of butter on a palanquin through the audience and up onto the set. I expected Paula to do the Dance of the Seven Veils in front of it.

  • In another episode, she mixed peanut butter, honey, and sugar into a thick paste, scooped up handfuls of the mixture, rolled them in more powdered sugar (no cooking necessary!) and then ate one like an apple, while informing us that her grade-school lunch lady used to make something just like this.

  • In yet another episode, she posed the question: How can you make a rich recipe like bread pudding even richer? Why, by replacing the bread with Krispy Kreme Donuts, silly!



What next, Paula? Crisco Fritters with Georgia Butter Sauce and Mars Bar stuffing?


Come to think of it, that’d be some mighty good eatin’!




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