*I’ve dubbed Paula Deen the “Godmother of Butter” for her unbridled and fearless use of butter, fat and sugar on her Food Network shows. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve winced while watching her alter a recipe that called for a tablespoon or two of butter by saying “what the heck lets just use the whole dang stick of butter honey.”
It made good TV and was foodie fodder on an epic scale. Not since Julia Childs had the liberal use of butter been so – well – liberal. But during Julia’s reign the nexus between a high fat diet and heart disease and diabetes was not the hue and cry it is today.
Yet Paul’s Southern drawl, playfulness and matriarch persona made her charming. Her rags to riches story tugged at the heart strings. Voila! A brand was born catapulted by cuisine that would clog your arteries and blow up your waistline. What was American thinking?
Well it wasn’t and neither was Mama Deen. The recent news that she has Type 2 diabetes was like the sound of an egg frying in butter heard across the world. Suddenly Paula’s Lady’s Brunch Burger that features a beef burger, bacon and a fried egg between two Krispy Kreme doughnuts instead of a hamburger bun seemed beyond foolish and funny. It was down right irresponsible to peddle this dastardly dish to a nation battling epidemic rates of obesity and heart disease and call it entertainment. Not to mention, she can’t or shouldn’t eat many of the dishes she prepares on her show or that are found in her cookbooks anyway. It’s a bit disingenuous, putting it mildly.
Last year celebrity chef, author and host of The Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations said Paula was the “most dangerous person to America,” and that she is “proud of the fact that her food is bad for you.”
Paula countered by saying, “People see me cooking all these wonderful, Southern, fattening recipes… it’s for entertainment. I’ve always encouraged moderation,” she said during a television appearance adding people have to be responsible and take her recipes with a pinch of salt – well she actually uses more than a pinch, but that’s another issue
Honestly, I’ve never heard her say that on the shows I’ve seen. Perhaps it was the one or two shows I missed. That has to be it.
Nonetheless, her recent confession has been called into question and the subject of numerous hit pieces because she received the diagnosis three years ago. Why did she wait so long to come clean? Was it because it would smother her image and darken her roux? I don’t know why she choose now to tell the world of her diagnosis but maybe it has a lot to do with her also revealing her latest endorsement deal as a spokesperson for diabetes medication Victoza, an injectable prescription medicine sold by Novo Nordisk. It’s gotta be a sweet deal for the Godmother of Butter. But having diabetes isn’t. Its onset, specifically Type 2, has long been linked to diet, obesity and being overweight. Age and genetics are also factors as well. Since Paula’s career was launched over 20 years ago her homage to southern cooking has celebrated the copious use of butter and sugar. How much did that contribute to her diagnosis? We don’t know.
What is known is that there are 25.8 million people in the United States who have diabetes and Mama Deen is now counted among them. But there are about 57 million Americans who have prediabetes or what is referred to as borderline diabetes. This is when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be Type 2 diabetes.
Are people with prediabetes more likely to develop type 2 diabetes? In a word – yes. But research shows that a person can lower their risk for Type 2 diabetes by:
- Keeping their weight within or near normal ranges – start by setting a goal to lose 7% of your body weigh.
- Managing your blood pressure – start by knowing your numbers.
- Getting moderate exercise on most days – start by walking 30 minutes a day, five day a week.
- Eating balanced diets – eliminate foods high in fats and sugars; consider the DASH diet which was voted the best diet by US News & World Report. While it lowers hypertension it is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low in fats, sugars and sodium.
If Mama Deen does have a moderation message perhaps it will be underscored and perhaps there will be shift in a lot of the recipes she whips up on her show. But the problem is her Food Network brand. How will it be affected? That remains to be seen. But as a spokesperson she’s poised to rebrand herself as the Queen of Victoza – sounds like her own little fiefdom doesn’t it. In her defense, she can do some good and undo a lot of the damage she has unfurled. It was nice to see that she has invited visitors to the drug manufacture’s website to subscribe to “recipes for diabetic friendly foods.” In light of her health condition, it is her reasonable service. For more information on diabetes and how to prevent and manage it, talk to your doctor and spend some time at the American Diabetes website at http://www.diabetes.org/ .
Veronica Hendrix is a syndicated columnist and feature writer whose work has covered the span of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to the gang violence. She is the owner of Bromont Avenue Foods. She is the author of “Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning Heart Healthy Recipes.” Visit http://bromontavefoods.com for more information. For comments, interviews, speaking engagements or moderator requests please send an email to [email protected]