I had a feeling that deep-fried cheesecake queen Paula Deen might draw more schadenfreude than sympathy after her confirmation that she has Type 2 diabetes. But I didn’t quite expect the sumo-sized level of resentment Deen drew after her appearance on the Today show yesterday, where she confirmed rumors that she had been diagnosed three years ago with the disease and announced she hoped to help others through her work “with a reputable pharmaceutical company” as spokeswoman for a diabetes drug. (She did not go the route of the Northwest’s “Galloping Gourmet” Graham Kerr, who switched from butter and cream to fruits and vegetables after his wife’s health problems years ago.)
The San Francisco Chronicle found it infuriating that Deen talked about medication rather than showing “regret or culpability” for a persona and recipes that are “pretty much a butter-lubed bobsled ride to Diabetesville”. Satirist “Ruth Bourdain” mocked Deen’s appearance as “a powerful teachable moment about how to turn a diagnosis into a multimillion dollar drug endorsement deal.” And then there was Deen nemesis Anthony Bourdain, tweeting “Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.”
Jane Black, a former Washington Post staffer who writes extensively about food politics and American obesity, called Deen’s talk — where Deen mentioned moderation but otherwise dodged talk about her diet — a grand disappointment.
“While everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Frank Bruni have called Deen a menace to a healthy society, I always believed that Deen, or someone like her, might be the key to change,” Black wrote. “Everyday Americans, including a large number that struggle with weight and diabetes, like Deen. They listen to her.”
Paula Deen’s 1.6+ million Facebook fans are far more divided. There are some vitriolic comments on her screen, but also generous helpings of support — although not the sort she may be accustomed to seeing. Wrote one fan, “Paula, I encourage you to follow & promote a 100% RAW VEGAN diet to completely cure yourself.”
Full disclosure: My brother makes Deen’s deep-fried stuffing on a stick for Thanksgiving. However, we dine on different coasts.