Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In Praise of Fried Cheesecake

Greetings Friends,

The entire North American continent is in the midst of an apoplectic fit over Paula Deen's announcement that she is a Type 2 diabetic. The woman who brought us fried cheesecake and hamburgers with glazed doughnut buns has the ailment brought on  by eating a steady diet of such foods, but it took her three years to share that information with her fans and the world at large. She's currently making the talk show-rounds because not only is she a diagnosed diabetic, she's also the paid spokesperson for the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. She claims she had to "figure things out in her head" before she went public with her diagnosis. My take is that she had to negotiate the contract equivalent of a metric ton of butter before it was worth her while to do so. I know that sounds cynical, so let me tell you why:

I've watched countless episodes of Paula Deen's Food Network shows. I've made exactly none of her recipes. For me, watching those shows was therapeutic in the sense that they settled my brain during a time when life was extremely stressful. Watching her flit about in her kitchen between her griddle and her deep-fryer was something that relaxed me. Sure, I wouldn't refuse a plateful of whatever it was she was dishing up, but to make those Southern culinary delights myself was not something I was willing to do. It was entertainment for me, pure and simple. I know, however, that for others, it is a lifestyle; one that can be harmful if taken too seriously. 

Paula insists that she's no doctor, but not once did I ever hear her utter (or should that be "udder" in her case?) to her audience that her food is best consumed in moderation. She's claiming that's been her message all along, and she's in no way responsible for the North American diabetes epidemic. There are extenuating circumstances when it comes to that disease, absolutely; it runs in families and can strike even the fittest of people when they least expect it. The thing is, eating a steady diet of deep-fried foods and butter-laden dishes is the quickest way to acquire it short of chugging bottles of straight high-fructose corn syrup. The majority of cases don't just appear out of nowhere.

Unfortunately, our tendency as human beings is to blame others for our misfortunes. Instead of taking responsibility for our own actions, we like to scapegoat others for our shortcomings. Paula Deen has long been vilified for encouraging us to eat fat-laden, southern-style foods, even though she comes off as the doyenne of southern hospitality and folksy charm. She has been skewered (pun intended) by the likes of food snob Anthony Bourdain and others, who don't seem to get the entertainment value of her programs. Well, I get it. The thing that doesn't sit right with me is the fact that she waited until she had a deal in place to surface as the saviour of Type 2 diabetics the world over. I've always believed that anyone can sell anything if the price is right. Paula Deen is now just another in a long line of those kinds of people.

I once said I would gladly watch Paula Deen fry up a pair of old tennis shoes. I wouldn't eat them of course, but I would eat a slice of deep-fried cheesecake - once in a blue moon. What I won't do is accept her seemingly altruistic stance of wanting to help the diabetic masses. To be genuinely altruistic never involves a dollar figure. Batter that up and stick it in your deep-fryer, Paula.


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