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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Paula Deen, Fallen Queen of the South

Flash back a few years ago.....The South had one undisputed Queen and goodwill ambassador:  Paula Deen.  She was the wacky Southern matriarch that everyone wished was part of their family.  She charmed millions by making ridiculously over the top southern delicacies, infamous for adding excessive amounts of butter.  She oozed quirky charm.  She was a person that was hard not to love.  She was made of the fuzzy down home feeling people get when they think about the positive aspects of the South.

My family visited Savannah during the height of Paula Deen's reign as queen.  We visited her restaurant,The Lady and Sons, as we felt it was obligatory.

It was a sight.  People were crowding the streets to the point where it was a virtual safety hazard.  We had to put our name in an hour before the restaurant even opened to ensure a seat.  The restaurant was officially opened by a man ringing a dinner bell in the middle of the street.

Sadly, the food was not good.  I am not a food critic, but the food was bad.  It was a major disappointment.  My wife had been making Paula's recipes for years and they had been excellent, but the food here was bland and tough.  My guess is that it probably wasn't Paula who prepared our food.

Paula's fall from grace begin a few years back.  She was attacked viciously by world famous chef Anthony Bordaine, who basically said her food sucked.  It felt like he was attacking the whole South.  Paula was the Queen of the South and Anthony was a mean spirited drunken New Yorker.  The South rallied behind their queen.

Not long after, Paula announced that she was diabetic, and that she had been keeping it secret for years.  Some felt betrayed.  As Paula was promoting unapologetically unhealthy food she was secretly suffering from a disease caused by eating unapologetically unhealthy food.  Paula would become a spokesperson for an anti-diabetes drug company.  Her mortal nemesis, Bordain would call her out a hypocrite for promoting unhealthy eating and then making money of the disease that she helped create.

This would all be small potatoes compared to what has transpired over the last few days.  A former employee of Deen's has filed a lawsuit claiming that Deen is a racist and used the dreaded "N-Word".  Paula would end up making some admissions during a recent deposition.  The deposition can be read HERE. 

Paula admitted to using the N-word when talking about a black man that had held her at gunpoint.  She states that this was a different time, and this language was more common back then.  Okay, so a Southern Woman in the 60s used a racial slur.  This is nothing that should be too shocking.  At the same time it is a very unpleasant image.  The sweet queen of the South uttering such a nasty word.  It just seems wrong.  I'm not going to make excuses for her, but it is possible that a person changes and grows over time.

Now, somewhat more disturbing was that Paula Deen had planned to have a "Southern Plantation Style Wedding" for her brother.  Paula talked about having all black men dressed in white suites to reflect an era in close proximity to the civil war.  Paula would then admit that these men would essentially be portraying slaves.  This is a very unpleasant image.  I defend the South a lot, but I will not defend slavery.  Slavery is ugly and this was inappropriate.  Deen would nix this idea herself by admitting that people would take it the wrong way.  Really, people would just be offended by something that was genuinely offensive.

The most disturbing parts of the lawsuits involved Paula Deen's brother Bubba, who owns Uncle Bubba's Oyster Shack in Savannah.  The lawsuit alleges that Bubba sexually harassed female staff members by talking about their bodies and showing them porn.  It also alleges that Bubba would become physically violent with his employees.  This news is more devastating to me then the stuff about Paula, primarily because the char-grilled oysters at Bubba's Oyster House are about the best things I have ever eaten.

Maybe we can grow to forgive Paula.  If people can forgive Chris Brown, this one should be easy.

But for the time being, the South has lost its Queen.  I guess we must search for a new on......I propose Miss Kay Robertson.

For those of you who are mad at Paula.  Here is some something to cheer you up:  Paual Deen getting hit in the face with a ham.

Update: I felt the need to discuss the Paula Deen situation a bit more HERE.

The Carpetbagger

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  1. I tell ya - my mind is just conflicted over this whole danged situation! She very well could have lied and denied it all but she didn't. The public on a whole forgets a lot of errors in our celebrities, evangelists, athletes and politicians including numerous affairs, lies and money pilfering. We rally around "reality" shows where people are pumped up with alcohol just so that we can see them fight and do bad things to each other....

    I just can't get my mind right one way or the other on this one. Being a Southern girl and knowing so many Southern ladies who are Paula's age and older, I know that times were different when they were growing up and sometimes, they do secretly keep some of their old ways. I guess it would be easier to forgive her errors in the 60's than it is to forgive her idea of the perfect wedding reception more recently. Eh..I ramble. Like I said - I'm conflicted.

    I love that you nominated Miss Kay though. She's a lady through and through. I heard today that Food Network has cut the ties with Paula. I wonder what will be next for her.

    1. I thought that the food network cancellation was very harsh and premature.

      I had a good conversation with my wife about this situation and we both agreed, that it wasn't cool what she said/did that she showed a tremendous amount of integrity in being honest and telling the truth. It seems like it would of have been easier and better for her career to just lie and say she never said anything racist. So, in some ways she is being punished for her honesty.

      I have said things I am not proud of and that I wouldn't want published in the newspaper.

      I felt very sad watching Paula's public apology, as she appeared very distraught.

      I feel like we should use this as a teachable moment, and have a discussion about this instead of just throwing her under the bus. It just seems like the punishment doesn't fit the crime.

      As for the Robertson's, we can rest assured that they are not racist, as Willie and his wife adopted a biracial child.

  2. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Dr Dre and a host of others all use the N word regularly and are praised for it via the dollars they make. Paula used it decades ago when describing a black man who pointed a gun at her during a bank robbery and has her business contracts ripped up. Hypocrisy abounds.

  3. They are African American though and the word is used as a term of endearment, I suspect to try and take power away from the negative connotations. It's not hypocrisy if Rap artist were censored in the 90's by having their albums edited or not sold at certain retail chains.

    People have a legitimate reason to criticize her poor choice of hiding a debilitating disease when telling people how to make meals that could develop diabetes in a person if they ate too much.

    1. I would also like to add that Deen wasn't fired or blackballed by Food Network, they didn't renew her contract. She still has a big section on their website and reruns haven't been nixed.
      If Marv Albert was forgiven for crossdressing and beating up women, I'm sure some companies will partner with her again after all of this has been settled.

    2. I agree with you on the Rapper thing. It doesn't bother me that they use it. In some sense they are taking it back as their own. I don't think them using the N-word gives a white person any justification in using.

      I think Paula will recover. Back when Dog the Bounty Hunter used the N-Word (On tape in modern times), he was fired, but he was hired back 3 months later. We have forgiven celebrities for A LOT worse then what Paula did.

      Her choice to hide her diabetes was sneaky, but at the same time no one in the world should have mistaken her cooking for healthy food.

  4. My Wife and I ate at Paula Deen's new restaurant in Pigeon Forge. It was a 2 hour wait but the food was great, the fried chicken was fantastic. It's served family style so you choose 2 main entrees and 4 sides and they keep bringin more as needed then you have 3 or 4 choices for dessert. As you can tell with a 2 hour wait the place was packed and although they don't take reservations you can call ahead and they give you an approximate time and then you check in when you get there and they send you a text when your tables ready so next time we'll go to some of the other establishments nearby while we wait.