We’re second to no one in thinking that Paula Deen’s a caricature of a cartoon of southern dining, and not announcing your personal medical news until you’re on a pharmaceutical payroll is somewhere between tone-deaf and cynical. But there’s been a lot of schadenfreude over her announcement of Type 2 diabetes that has struck us as class-based and elitist— people who would happily lap up butter served to them by a French chef mocking a Southern cook for her calorie counts, as if accent and amount of eye shadow worn had something to do with the intrinsic quality of cuisine. Now that schadenfreude has boiled over in one of the portions of the internet most susceptible to blowing sky high— a discussion board, LTHForum.
The thread that announced Deen’s news quickly took a certain tone:
Man, the irony runs so deep here on so many levels. That a smoking diabetic has been advocating this style of eating/cooking in such a zealous manner – even to children – really does give credence to Anthony Bourdain’s claim from 2011 that “The worst, most dangerous person to America is clearly Paula Deen.” …Many of us felt that she was a joke, even believed she was dangerous, but this latest development really is the double-sugared icing on the deep-fried, bacon-topped cake. [Poster Ronnie_Suburban]
I find it pretty disgusting that she wrote a cookbook of children’s recipes advocating the same diet that just may kill her. [Poster Knitgirl]
At the same time, others felt the schadenfreude came with a side of hypocrisy:
This forum is full of high-fat, high-sugar, high-sodium, fattening recipes and descriptions of over-the-top restaurant meals that would be condemned by CSPI and other health nannies. If one of the founders, owners or moderators developed a health condition linked to diet, would you say it served him right for promoting such a diet? [Poster LAZ]
Mario Batali is fat, too. So it Emeril Lagasse. Would the schadenfraude be so thick if these guys were also diagnosed with diabetes? [Poster EWS]
Still, the pile-on on Deen continued and finally, one commenter who also happens to run a Southern-themed restaurant had enough. Poster DK, who is Donna Knezek, owner of Feed, took offense at what she saw as elitist attacks on Southern food and fired a direct shot:
This could be the best thing that ever happened to American eating habits. The folks that like Paula Deen and identify with her may be more receptive to her delivery of healthier recipes. Recall Jaime Oliver’s pathetic attempts at saving the hillbillies of West Virginia.
It is unfortunate that holier-than-thou food snobs that preach from on high bar stools, consuming 5-10 cocktails with a sucession of high fat meats and sauces, will never have Paula Deen’s appeal or abilty to profit from it, as titanium hips aren’t cheap.
The reference to titanium hips evidently refers to “Ronnie_Suburban,” aka LTHForum co-owner Ron Kaplan, whose signature line calls him “Titanium Man.”
We’d like to see everybody cool down on all sides of this, because we see good and bad points everywhere. Deen’s food is often preposterous but assuming people aren’t always even eating it, merely watching it, she’s plainly serving a desire to revel via television in pre-nanny-state comfort food without guilt. But it’s equally preposterous for posters on LTHForum, which also revels in guilt-free excess lovingly documented in photographic form, to get holier than thou toward Deen— especially if, as Knezek clearly feels, it has more to do with class and regional prejudice than objective issues. Although LTHForum is much more fine dining oriented, like eGullet, than it was when it was originally founded to trumpet ethnic joints and barbecue, it should still recognize that the enemy of the downhome pound cake with two sticks of butter in it is not its friend.