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June 25, 2013 at 11:23 AM

‘Butter severs ties with Paula Deen’: catching up on the fiasco

File photo of Paula Deen by Carlo Allegri/AP

File photo of Paula Deen by Carlo Allegri/AP

It had to happen:

NEW YORK (AP) — Paula Deen lost another key business partner Monday: Butter said it is no longer working with her. The announcement came days after the Food Network said it would not renew the celebrity cook’s contract in the wake of revelations that she used racial slurs in the past..

It is, needless to say, a spoof article, one of the funnier ones to come out of the passionate debate over Deen’s recent remarks in a legal deposition. Writer Cheryl Reid-Simons continued on her Facebook page:

In a terse comment, Butter acknowledged its long association with Deen but said it would be cutting all ties with her and her brand. “Butter has a long and proud tradition of contributing to obesity and coronary disease in people of all races and ethnic backgrounds,” the dairy spread said. “At this point it seems clear that Ms. Deen is better suited to a relationship with margarine,” Butter said.

Lard, Salt and Sugar also issued statements Monday, indicating that they were “carefully evaluating” their relationship with Deen. “We will be monitoring the situation and the litigation carefully,” a spokesperson for Lard said.

Whether it’s serious analysis or careful corporate comments or comic relief, it’s been almost impossible to avoid talk about Deen’s remarks since they blew up the Internet (including Twitter) last week. Want to continue avoiding them? Click away now! For others, here’s a summary of the debates and updates:

Want to see what Deen actually said, in context? Eater has provided relevant excerpts and a link to the whole 149-page deposition here.

The Food Network won’t be renewing her show, and she’s been dropped by Smithfield Foods, the giant pork producers. QVC is reviewing the situation. Thousands of Deen fans “went ballistic” protesting the Food Network’s decision on the network’s Facebook page, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A post on the “lemon pasta salad” recipe of the day drew comments like “I don’t care if she is or isn’t racist. I just want to watch her make a pie.” More than 380,000 people joined a Facebook page in Deen’s support.

Time magazine TV critic James Poniewozik wrote that Dean hurt those fans as much as everyone else: He wrote: “Deen made a pile of money off a certain idea of old-school southern culture. In return, she had an obligation to that culture–an obligation not to embody its worst, most shameful history and attitudes. Instead, in one swoop, fairly or not, she single-handedly affirmed people’s worst suspicions of people who talk and eat like her–along with glibly insulting minorities, she slurred many of the very fans who made her successful. She made it that much harder to say that Confederate Bean Soup is just a recipe.”

Culinary historian Michael W. Twitty, though, wrote Deen on his AfroCulinaria site that that “I am probably more angry about the cloud of smoke this fiasco has created for other issues surrounding race and Southern food.”

For Frank Bruni, former restaurant critic for The New York Times, the turning point in his feelings about Deen had come earlier, from her controversial decision to go public with her diabetes only as a spokeswoman for a drug. “You knew then that she had levitated to some altitude where she felt above reproach; that her investment in the bacon-wrapped burlesque of Paula, Inc., trumped a healthy conscience; and that self-examination was a condiment gone from her larder,” he wrote.

Kim Severson of The New York Times interviewed diners outside Deen’s restaurant in Savannah, Ga., many of whom were willing to give the star a pass. She summarized it like this: “The strong reaction to Ms. Deen’s pickle reflects a simple truth: race remains one of the most difficult conversations to have in America. And here, where antiseptic nostalgia for the antebellum South is not uncommon, the conversation is even more complex.” The photo accompanying the article, showing some generously sized patrons, has generated its own debates.

The Huffington Post revisited a video interview Deen did with Severson last fall, though, which included some “strange” and “awkward” discussions of race. It culminated in Deen’s request to have a beloved employee come out on stage, telling him, “We can’t see you standing in front of that dark board!”

Reactions from fellow food personalities have ranged from pained to triumphantly snarky, as collected here. Top Chef alum and Kentucky chef Edward Lee, in a widely shared Facebook post, wrote that he shot an episode of Deen’s show earlier this year, although it now won’t air. He wrote that he felt they had “connected the Old and New Southern values through a dialogue of food,” though he realized this week that a ravine still exists between them. “(L)eaving Mrs. Deen’s foibles aside, what I was most dismayed about this week were the provocations by a number of outspoken people who over-simplified this vast swath of symbolic land called “The South.” Racist rants, dumb jokes about Southern culture and, at times, a particularly mean-sprited skewering (sorry for the pun) of Mrs. Deen herself. To say things like, “that’s just the way it’s always been” is not only inaccurate, but far worse, it is lazy.”

Late-night hosts are doing their best to find humor in the situation. Eater has a link here to the some of the Deen-inspired zingers, including Jimmy Kimmel’s comment on her lost sponsorship that “Pork severing ties with Paula Deen is like spinach cutting ties with Popeye.”

Want to hear from Deen herself? Her YouTube video apologies are online here, and she’s scheduled to appear on the Today Show on Wednesday after an earlier no-show.

Comments | Topics: butter, Food Network, Paula Deen


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