On Paula Deen

An Outdoor View

This week I was gladdened to hear that Food Network chef Paula Deen was being hounded by the media.

Deen, a bubbly woman who oozes Southern folksiness like a pork roast oozes fat, has been overdosing her television viewing audiences with lard, sugar and butter for 10 years. Her latest book, "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible," was named one of the five unhealthiest cookbooks of 2011 by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The media accuse Deen of being a hypocrite. After being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes three years ago, she kept it to herself, all the while promoting foods that can contribute to the development of diabetes. What's more, the very day she announced that she had diabetes, she started hawking diabetes medicine for Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company.

Age, race and family history can contribute to the development of diabetes, but obesity definitely plays a part. Two out of three Americans are now overweight. Nearly 80 million have prediabetes, and more than 25 million have diabetes.

Paula Deen personifies a universal problem. While television shows such as "Paula's Home Cooking" and "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" promote unhealthy eating habits, the media also promote drugs for treating the various diseases that we inevitably contract by having these habits. They push the fatty foods, then peddle us cholesterol-reducing drugs. They get us coming and going.

Don't get me wrong. I grew up eating "comfort" food, which is what Paula Deen and Southern cooking is all about. I yearn for the tart and crunchy sweetness of a rhubarb and strawberry crisp topped with ice cream. I long for pineapple upside-down cake, banana cream pie and strawberry shortcake. I never met a meatloaf, a bowl of gumbo or a chicken-fried steak I didn't like. If life was fair, I'd eat this stuff at every opportunity.

However, life isn't fair. Whenever I do something -- anything, it seems -- there are aftereffects, or "unintended consequences." Among the aftereffects of unhealthy eating habits are agony, sickness and an early death. We all have to die, but I'd just as soon spend the last part of my life being able to walk and to climb hills. I want to be able to wade rivers. I want to be able to land big fish, and to climb in and out of boats. I want to continue to enjoy the outdoors. If I don't "eat healthy," I can't expect to keep doing the things I want to do.

Having lost 70 pounds and kept it off for well over a year, I've learned to avoid certain things. As alcoholics avoid bars, I try to avoid people who push unhealthy eating habits.

To be fair to Paula Deen, I watched a couple of her shows the day before I wrote this column. Watching her pour a cream-and-powdered sugar glaze over a pan of sugar and butter-laden cinnamon rolls, and then preparing a "snack" of chicken pieces wrapped with bacon and rolled in brown sugar, I found myself at once drooling, shaking my head and covering my eyes.

While preparing chili-topped cornbread waffles, this overweight woman who has smoked for 50 years, said, "Sometimes I will just set up the waffle iron and just let my family eat at their leisure, oh my goodness, we'll just eat like pigs!"

hat pretty much summed up why I don't watch Paula Deen.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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