As you may know, chef Paula Deen, the woman famous for her southern/deep-fried/buttery/100% delicious recipes, has type 2 diabetes. Hold the phone! Everyone, scramble! How dare she fall victim to the inevitable consequence of her eating habits!
The media frenzy over Deen’s diagnosis underscores a very silly thing we do in this country. For some inexplicable reason, we hold television personalities accountable for our own poor decisions. So Paula Deen pushes fatty, cholesterol-filled, sugar covered, potato chip encrusted, doughnut encircled, heart-attack-in-a-recipe recipes. So she has bazillions of fans hanging on her every word. So what? Does that make it her responsibility to include caveats about healthy eating alongside everything she does?
I would argue no, and here’s why: it’s my own stinkin’ job to control what I put in my own stinkin’ mouth. If I ate everything I saw on television, I’d be dead. But people love to criticize. The media would have us believe we’re all just robots with our mouths open waiting for a television chef to stuff some food in there. Not to mention the obvious double standard… I don’t see anyone calling out the fine French chefs of the world, famous for their heavy cream, full-fat cheese and rich desserts. No, it’s the southern, down-home chef—associated with lower income, classless America—who gets blamed for causing diabetes, heart disease, obesity, low self-esteem and ennui.
Despite our weight-conscious culture, we love watching food almost as much as we love eating it. We can’t get enough and Paula Deen delivers. She is a talented chef with a winning personality who gives us just exactly what we want: delicious, irresistible excess. If the poor woman simply led a double life—preparing sinful treats for her audience while eating non-fat slop at home—none of us would have been the wiser. Because, as we all know, if the host of the show is healthy, the food she prepares is okay to eat. I mean, obviously.
If you take a look at the Food Network’s chefs you’ll notice a strange trend: nearly all of them look young, fit, beautiful and healthy despite their food-oriented occupations. Television is in the business of creating illusions that make us feel good about ourselves and our decisions. When those illusions begin to fall apart, we reveal just how completely we bought into them in the first place.
Suddenly everyone is acting completely surprised by the connection between eating and health. Take, for example, the new Food Network show Fat Chef. According to the Huffington Post, Fat Chef “explores the connection between cooking and obesity.” Yes that is definitely a perplexing connection worthy of exploration. Sheesh.
Sure, one may say that it was devious for Paula Deen to wait until she had a lucrative endorsement deal with a pharmaceutical giant before breaking her unfortunate news to the fair-weather public. I think it demonstrates that Paula Deen is no dummy. She knew diabetes would jeopardize her career because public opinion and ratings are one-in-the-same. In this dog-eat-dog cooking show world, a girl’s got to look out for number one.