Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Paula Deen Update

Well, it seems the rumors are true.  Paula made the announcement this morning on the Today Show during an interview with Al Roker.
If you have trouble seeing the video, try this link instead.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Eat like a Caveman?

I've never really given a whole lot of thought to what's commonly called the Paleo-Diet. Short for Paleolithic.
Some see it as just another fad diet, but one that promotes the idea that humans thrive and and are healthier consuming food (wild plants and animals)  that mimics that of the hunter gather hominids believed to have lived on the earth for over 2.5 million years, but ending 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture.

I am far from an expert on this topic. I just know that it advocates eating a large amount of animals, which I can in no way support.  But I wanted to share a very informative as well as entertaining podcast from author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks. She has done the homework for me. Enjoy.  link.

Oh Paula

 Have you ever had the experience of “knowing” something before you “know” it?
I have.  If you’re not sure what I mean, let me try to explain.  Sometimes, I get a sense of something, an issue, a fact, but not a clear picture.  I once had a sense that someone I knew was pregnant, but had no actual proof or logical reason to think so.  Just a sense that something was…eminent.  Anyway, turned out I was right.

Well, a few days ago I came across an article about the son of a famous chef that just launched a new cooking show.  From the title of this blog post, you may have already figured out who I’m talking about.  I’m referring to Bobby Deen, son of Paula Deen.   When I first read about his new show entitled “Not My Mama’s Meals”, I admit was curious. 

The premise of the cooking show is his healthier take on his mom Paula’s over the top, fattening southern dishes.   Now, you may be wondering what this all has to do with my “knowing” things.
Well after I read that article, I wondered to myself what the motivation was for this family to even create such a show as  this.  Paula has built her culinary empire on unapologetic celebration of decadent, rich, buttery, and often fried southern comfort food. Lots of meat, cheese, sugar, you name it.
But, I had this nagging feeling that someone in that family may have gotten a not so good medical diagnosis.  Now I know.

It is rumored that Paula has type 2 diabetes and will be making an announcement any day now. There is also talk that she may have recently inked a deal with a pharmaceutical company as a spokesperson.  For a diabetes medication no less.  But as of this writing, the company has not confirmed this and in fact denies even working with Ms. Deen.

Some of the online response I’ve read to this news is along the lines of “well of course she has diabetes, surprised she didn’t develop it sooner..”   I admit, I’m not really surprised by the possibility  myself.

I remember a while back watching with disgust a video of Paula making her deep fried mac and cheese recipe..wrapped in bacon.  I took note of the look on her face and the twinkle in her eye when she announced this dish at the beginning of the video. Come on! Now she knew that was wrong. She just had to.
And then there was her connection to Smithfield Foods.

My mind was pretty much made up about her.  Then I would hear or read over the last few months snippets of how she managed to turn her life around and provide for herself and kids by creating the business that has made her famous.   So what did I do?  Ok I’m about to make a confession here.  I read her memoir, Paula Deen: It Ain’t All About the Cookin’.  Why in the world would a self described “black female, Christian vegan” want to read anything that Paula has written accept to ridicule it?

I love stories of those who overcome adversity, especially women. And like her or not Paula has overcome a lot.  As much as I cringe at the recipes she creates, it’s called comfort food for a reason. And  there’s a part of me that warms up to her.   She’s from Georgia. Much of my family is also and those are my roots.   As I read of her difficult marriage to an alcoholic, I felt for her. When she admitted in her book to suffering from agoraphobia and feeling trapped in an affair with a married man for years, I hurt for her.  I connect with people who are real and open about their struggles and pain.

But she’s also funny. I lost count of how many times I laughed out loud at some of the things Paula wrote.  The intimate stuff about relationships especially.
But don’t get me wrong. As I poured through her book I wanted to remake every fat-laden, fleshly recipe in there.    And now it looks like that’s what her son Bobby has set out to do. Although I doubt anything will be vegan friendly.

I suspect in the new future, the number of snarky comments about Paula’s supposed diabetes diagnosis will continue to grow.  The finger wagging judgemental pronouncements are sure to be seen and heard for weeks and months to come.  I'm sure much of it will come from the keyboards of vegans and vegetarians.  But I don’t see this as a time to gloat. I do not celebrate a disease diagnosis in anyone, especially one like diabetes. It’s a horrendous illness that can kill a person piece by piece.

But this is also personal. My grandmothers on both sides of my family succumbed to complications from the disease.  That was one of the motivations for my decision to go vegetarian almost 22 years ago, to do what I could to avoid the same fate.

So, if it turns out that Paula Deen indeed has type 2 diabetes, I pray that a drastic change takes place in how she views food.  I don’t suppose it will be easy, her entire livelihood is built on feeding the country some of the most dangerous food on the planet.  But, she’s not alone in her excessive love of butter.  I sometimes marvel at the comments and attitude towards  her cooking, including my own.  How different is Paula’s cooking from any other traditional southern cook out there? Or soul food cook for that matter, like those from my own family?
She just happens to be famous so she’s demonized by many and admittedly also loved by many.

And I believe she's part of the backlash that's happening in some ways against the pro-healthful eating and mainstreaming of veganism push we're beginning to see. It was bound to happen.  Do I support it? Of course not.  But I do understand it.  The pendulum is always swinging.

So, tonight I pray for Paula Deen's health. I pray that her eyes will be opened to the suffering of the animals as well as that of the human workers she endorses by her cooking and her connection with Smithfield Foods.

Often it takes difficult circumstances for our hearts to open to new possibilities.
I hope this happens to Paula Deen.

What did Dr. King really do?

I didn't write a blog tribute this year to Martin Luther King Jr. But, I did again contemplate some of the same issues and themes as I did last year.   I did come across another tribute that I found intriguing.  One that didn't have the same "Dr King fought against injustice for all people" flavor.

It's called "Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did." 
The author suggests that the gains made by King's legacy were primarily for the benefit of African Americans in a very specific way. Not just the marching and peaceful protesting about lunch counters and separate drinking fountains.
He makes a provocative statement that "He ended the terror of living as a black person."

To get the full effect of this statement, I highly recommend you check out the entire article. It will really make you think. I know it did me.   But I wonder, do you think this perspective is divisive?