Oh, Paula. I remember the first time I watched your show. How delightful it was to see an apple-cheeked granny, someone who looked like my own Nana, flit around the kitchen with hands full of flour and butter and dough. I loved that you wore your wedding rings while you cooked, and I loved it even more when you’d say, “I’m not your doctor, I’m your cook.” And oh, how I loved watching rings of dough fry in glittering canola oil, or how pats of butter melted into sweet yellow pools on top of vegetables gone bad, like green beans braised in bacon grease. Your food reminded me of home – of all that’s good about Southern food – the richness, the heritage, the rib-stickingness, the warmth that comes from a freshly-baked biscuit or a slice of gooey pecan pie.
I don’t know how to feel about your recent announcement. Nobody is surprised, frankly, but guess what – many of us, including the author of this post, are obese. So it’s not fair to blame this just on your weight, because there’s so many things that are factors to diabetes – smoking, genetics, heredity, stress…. It’s likely that your weight was a big contributor to your diagnosis, but it might not be the only thing. However, I’m irritated that your Diabetes is a bigger deal than SOPA, a bill that threatens the free speech of the internet that allows me to write things like this post. I’m also irritated that because you’re a woman, the story is gigantic, more gigantic than it would be if Mario Batali or Emeril was diagnosed with diabetes. Your gender makes everything more controversial, like the Lindsays and Britneys and Madonnas who get so much press coverage, yet the Charlies, Mels and Ashtons get a day or two in the press and are then freed from the scrutinizing public eye. (Don’t get me going on media discourse. It’s scary.)
How do I feel about the fact that you’re signed up as a spokesperson for a diabetes medication? Are you “selling out” like everybody thinks? Guess what, Paula… you’ve been selling table cloths and body lotions and pots and pans for way longer than you’ve been hawking pharmaceuticals, so I say go girl. Make some more money out of that diagnosis, and give some of it away, maybe to healthy school lunch programs, or to sponsor urban gardens.
Many people have suggested that now that your diagnosis is out in the open, you should re-work your recipes and opt for a leaner, lighter presence on TV. This is the one area where I’m going to say I hope you stick to your guns, and keep doling out the butter. I’m a strong believer in everything in moderation, and I believe you once famously said, “I don’t want to spend my life not having good food going into my pie hole. That hole was made for pies.” Your sons are already re-working your genius recipes into lighter, leaner versions of the fat bombs we all know and love, so your TV presence should stay the same – because that’s you. I’m no famous TV personality, but even when I lose all my extra weight, I’m still going to eat popcorn with butter on it, because that’s what I love. It’s part of who I am!
Keep walking on your treadmill, and cut down on the splurges. But for the love of God, Paula, keep your cooking show the same. Your TV presence is just what I want to see when I’ve got 5 points left to eat for dinner and all I want to do is bathe in mayonnaise. You’re not Jamie Oliver, You’re not Giada DeLaurentis (she’s impossibly perfect looking), You’re not Anthony Bourdain.
You’re Paula Deen.
You’re the house that butter built, and nobody can take that away from you.
Not even Diabetes.