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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hating on Diabetic Paula Deen Is Fun But Premature

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 8:51 AM

Don't you just want to hug/shake her? - TODAY SHOW
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  • Don't you just want to hug/shake her?
Yesterday, after Paula Deen finally sat down with Al Roker on the Today Show and admitted that she'd been diagnosed with diabetes type three years ago, the food world has been engaged in the loudest round of "I told you so" SFoodie has ever heard. 

Yes, the Enquirer sniffed this out last year. Yes, it's galling that Deen waited until she had a sponsorship deal from a diabetes-treatment manufacturer in place before she was ready to go public. So is her assertion, "On my show I share with you all these yummy, fattening recipes, but I tell people, 'in moderation.'"

The condemnation has been swift, resounding, and bitter. The most thoughtful initial response to the announcement came from former Washington Post staffer Jane Black, who called Deen's announcement a "missed opportunity." As she explains:

I always believed that Deen, or someone like her, might be the key to change. Everyday Americans, including a large number that struggle with weight and diabetes, like Deen. They listen to her. As I wrote in a piece on the Atlantic in August, Deen, despite herself, might just be the secret ingredient to changing the way Americans eat.

But the condemnation is also premature.

Clearly, by insisting she's not going to cook any differently, Deen's thinking of what would happen to her back-catalog cookook sales and reruns of her show if she repudiates all her earlier recipes (an approach that one crisis-management expert says "blew it"). 

But then look at what has already happened in the past 24 hours. Deen is already posting lighter versions of her recipes on that pharma-sponsored website, Diabetes in a New Light. Her slimmed-down son, Bobby Deen, has a new show titled "Not My Mama's Meals." There are thousands of discussions and articles appearing about the link between diabetes and diet, renewing the national discussion.

The subtext of all the Deen-bashing messages is that anyone who has type 2 diabetes made themselves sick. And, rather than indulging in a heap of mea culpas, Deen's breezy, fuck-you-if-you-think-I'm-going-to-admit-I've-been-wrong approach might help reach diabetics who are trying to change their diet but rebelling against the shame they're supposed to drape over every fatty, oversugared dish they love.

SFoodie admits it: We're an optimist. And we know that, whatever guilt Deen admits publicly or not, from here on out she's not going to be able to make donut burger sandwiches. She'll be laughed off TV, even by her fans.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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