Like of many of you, I cook meals for our family virtually every day trying my best to produce healthy food. We scour the Farmer’s Markets, Trader Joes, Costco and finally Whole Food for organic milk, eggs and any produce on sale. On special occasions, I frequent the Food Network website for ideas, though Ina Garten and Giada are my favorites, I often pick out a Paula Deen recipe. I do so with absolute awareness that Praline Baked French Toast saddled with heaps of butter, sugar and heavy cream isn’t healthy.
In the latest episode of the Paula Deen diabetes diagnosis scandal, reports confirm since Deen’s disclosure of health problems, reactions seemed more critical than supportive. Even the likes of Anthony Bourdain tweeted “Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business so I can profitably sell crutches later.”
At the top of her critics’ grievances – see the coverage at HuffingtonPost and CBS This Morning – is not her diabetes but rather that the diagnoses has been known to her since 2008 and she is only now disclosing in concert with the launch of a campaign with diabetes drug company Novo Nordisk.
Obviously, everyone watching her show or cooking her recipes is aware of the unhealthy nature of her food. Neither the Food Network nor her show claim to peddle healthy foods and Deen herself often jokes about the amount of butter in recipes.
I admit the timing of her announcement and endorsement of the diabetes drug does seem like an immoral capitalization of a bad situation, but I would have more of an issue if she was claiming her food was healthy, didn’t have diabetes and endorsed the drug for others. Yes, she is a public figure but why should her diabetes news be public consumption? She has the right to keep her health problems private.
At least with Paula Deen’s cooking and recipes you have full disclosure of her indulgent ingredients. I am more outraged that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in response to big business bullies approved carcinogenic artificial sweeteners like Aspartame. Or do you ever wonder why that steak you ordered from a restaurant tastes so much better than those you produce at home? The answer is butter, salt, butter and then more butter. It upsets me most to unknowingly serve my family unhealthy foods than a television host signing an endorsement deal.
This situation is another example of our society expecting celebrities to be teachers and role models. She is an entertainer and is watched mostly for her charm and sense of humor in addition to southern comfort cooking. If you are an unhealthy eater can you really blame a food network show host? If that said host is chosen and paid to endorse a drug so be it – it’s her right as an American to make a living. How she chooses to do so will weigh on her conscience and Karma. If you don’t agree with her actions, vote with the most powerful tool you have: the remote.
We big kids are aware of which foods are unhealthy. It’s our responsibility to teach our kids how to eat properly and consume treats like Praline French toast in moderation. Whether it is food, sex or other forms of education, we should not rely on public figures to teach our children. I will use this as a positive learning opportunity to illustrate the effects of poor eating habits in excess.
If I could speak to my girl Paula, I would plead with her to accept the challenge of cooking more creatively while still delivering delicious food. That would be good for business and the right thing to do. That is her choice and ours is to eat responsibility as a family to avoid diabetes.
Vanessa McCafferty lives in Manhattan Beach, California with her husband Colin, her son Nolan (17 months), and her mini Goldendoodle, Birdie (2).