In the few weeks since Paula Deen revealed she has been living with a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes for the past few years, it seems everyone has an opinion. Some people have been supportive; other people (I’m looking at you, Anthony Bourdain) not so much. But regardless of how you feel about the situation, it’s evident that the Deen family brand will certainly be evolving. Paula herself has moved beyond selling cake mix with her likeness, and is now endorsing diabetes medication. And now the latest cooking show in the family’s repertoire involves one of Paula’s sons presenting lighter versions of some of her classic meals.
I like the concept of Not My Mama’s Meals, Bobby Deen’s new show on The Cooking Channel. For the past year or so, I’ve been primarily in charge of cooking the family meals. I was raised in the south, so my general opinion of food is that if it’s good, and it has butter in it, it will probably be improved further by the addition of even more butter. We’ve tried to eat healthy before, but it never lasts, mostly because we give up everything we love and eat nothing but salads and like, oatmeal. Lately though, I’ve just been cooking lightened-up versions of the foods we love, and it seems to be working.
Bobby reinvents classic southern dishes on his show, including fried chicken and shrimp and grits, and also reworks recipes only Paula Deen could invent, like Gooey Butter Cake. His guests include other celebrity scions, such as Carrie Crowell (daughter of Roseanne Cash and granddaughter of Johnny Cash) and Daphne Oz (daughter of Dr. Mehmet Oz).
Deen certainly has his work cut out for him; in the first few episodes he’s had to reinvent some iconically unhealthy dishes. It’s easy enough for me to lighten up my shepherd’s pie (just use extra lean ground beef, more veggies, and top with roasted potatoes instead of mashed). But how do you make something like Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding even begin to approach low-calorie status? Not only does Bobby Deen make it happen, he actually makes it look pretty tasty.
While I dig the idea of a show that reinvents guilty pleasures into food you can actually eat without keeling over from a coronary, the execution isn’t perfect. The timing of this show debuting within days of Paula Deen’s announcement of her medical status feels cynical, like it was a family-wide decision to transition the family brand of deep-fried food swimming in butter to a cuisine that is slightly more palatable to the health-conscious. But the biggest change that needs to be made is jettisoning Paula herself from the opening and closing of each episode where Bobby regales her of his plans to lighten up her recipes, then listens while she eats the food he has ostensibly mailed her. There are few things less scintillating than watching people talk on the phone long-distance. Plus, recent reports indicate that she’s not fully committed to the lighter lifestyle. Time will tell if this cute concept will be able to sustain itself, or if it will end up half-baked.