My Problem with Paula Deen
January 20, 2012 § 7 Comments
I never paid that much attention to Paula Deen. It’s clear that we’re on different sides of the culture spectrum, so I never had any reason to read her recipes or watch her show. All of my Paula Deen knowledge could be boiled down to just one of her creations: a doughnut, beef, bacon and egg sandwich known as the Lady’s Brunch Burger. Reading that recipe was enough for me to know that Ms. Deen and I have nary a thing in common.
Her announcement that she has Type 2 Diabetes was hardly a surprise to me, although I did feel a twinge of sympathy. Having been a smoker myself for several years, it’s pretty difficult for me to muster up the sanctimony required to call someone out when their own bad choices lead to a disease. Every time I get a cough I secretly wonder if my foolish choices have resulted in a disastrous consequence.
The problem I’m having is that she has known about her illness – an illness widely believed in the medical community to be directly linked to a high fat, high sugar, high grossness diet* – for three years. And for those three years she has continued to amass a fortune peddling her food to her viewers and readers. AND she only disclosed her diagnosis after inking a lucrative deal with a pharmaceutical company that makes diabetes medication. To me, this is the height of cynical, money-grubbing consumerism. Ms. Deen has now officially made a career of getting you coming and going. What’s next, Paula Deen brand extra-wide coffins?
Ms. Deen’s handling of her illness is a prime example of just how sick our consumer culture has made us. She knows that her product is dangerous. She has probably become afflicted by her own product. Yet rather than destroy her precious brand, she hides the truth until she finds a way to profit from it. It’s like a cigarette company announcing their new chemotherapy division.
How incredible would it have been if Ms. Deen had instead used her unfortunate diagnosis as an opportunity to encourage us to change our eating habits? She once famously said, “I’m your cook, not your doctor.” What a revelation it would have been for her to step away from the money trough for long enough to realize that our food is our medicine. What we put into our bodies not only affects our health, but it ripples out into our communities, our politics, our spirituality – everything. Instead, she continues to make herself sick, she’s making her fans sick and her magic bullet solution is for them to send dollars to big Pharma. Pop these pills or inject yourself with this and you’ll erase years of unhealthy eating. Let’s hope you don’t go blind or lose a limb. Here, have a cookie.
What Paula Deen’s hypocritical brand of entertainment eating combined with chemical solutions overlooks is that we eat to nourish our bodies and prevent disease. We eat to build energy to accomplish great things throughout the day. We eat together to grow relationships. The food choices we make directly contribute (or show that we choose not to contribute) to the suffering of others. Our food can heal us. Or our food can make us very, very sick.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Feeding yourself is the most important thing you do all day. The food choices you make can lead to health and prosperity or listlessness and disease. I find it unbearably tragic (and so blatantly consumerist) that someone who makes their living feeding others is fine with making her clientele fat, unhealthy and sick while she herself is riddled with a diet-related disease. It seems almost too greedy to be true. But there it is. And here we are.
I wish Paula Deen the best with her illness, and I know that she has the money and the resources to secure the ultimate in medical care. I just hope that those who, from her example, find it to be giddy fun to stuff themselves with fat, sugar, lard, cellulose, and other poisons have the same access to the life saving medications they’re going to eventually need. In the meantime, I’m going to eat more kale.
*Disclaimer: I have read some articles that claim there is no causal link between a diet of disgustingness and Type 2 Diabetes, and I am willing to concede that I am not a doctor and therefore do not know for sure. However, there is no dissension in the medical community that continuing to eat this way after your diagnosis will probably kill you.