Paula Deen, the foremost proponent of butter, heavy cream, fried dishes and pork in Southern cooking, recently announced that she had Type 2 Diabetes. She said the diagnosis had been made three years ago during a routine physical. A hailstorm of criticism followed this revelation, with many cynics drawing the inevitable connection between her diet and her medical condition.
Deen now claims that she has always been a proponent of moderation. It’s true that if you survey the recipes on her website, many of them appear to be surprisingly healthy and balanced. The menu of her Charleston restaurant, Lady and Sons, is another matter. Virtually every dish is deep-fried, laced with bacon, or smothered in a heavy cream sauce.
Could Deen’s condition be more complex than it appears? While she is pleasantly Rubenesque, she doesn’t appear to be obese. I don’t have a medical degree, but I’m aware that genetics can play as much of a role in the development of diabetes as diet and exercise.
Much of the public outrage seems to be centered on Deen’s new role as a spokesman for a diabetes treatment program marketed by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. Called Diabetes in a New Light, it will focus on food preparation and working with physicians for optimal treatment. Presumably, she will omit some of her famous recipes such as the deep-fried cheesecake, the French Toast casserole with two cups of Half & Half and a half-pound of butter, and the quiche containing an entire pound of bacon. She will add the diabetes program to a list of endorsements that includes Smithfield Ham and Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
Deen is unapologetic about the apparent conflicts surrounding her new gig (a girl has to make a living, after all). She maintains that she will continue to consume butter and cream, albeit sparingly. And in all fairness, many of her classic recipes are probably no worse than the fast-food diet on which many people in America seem to subsist. Going forward, though, take care to do as she says—not as she does.