Duking It Out

The other day, Anthony Bourdain had some tough words for some of the various personalities on the Food Network, which IMHO has totally gone downhill in recent years. It used to be a channel full of cooking and “how-to” programming. It’s now full of reality-type programs and there are only handful of decent shows. The Cooking Channel is now what Food Network used to be.

Anyway, Bourdain’s harshest words were directed at Paula Deen. To paraphrase, he called Paula Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America,” explaining that her relationships to food corporations and disregard for healthy foods made her a “threat to cardiovascular systems across the country.”

Her response?

“You know, not everybody can afford to pay $58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine. My friends and I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills . . . It wasn’t that long ago that I was struggling to feed my family, too.”

While his comments may have been a little overblown (I mean, is she really the most dangerous person in America?) I am going to take sides with Bourdain on this one. I’v e seen Paula Deen’s show a few times, and I too, have been disgusted by the way she cooks — slathering butter on everything and cooking with lots of high-fat, highly-processed ingredients. It’s just not appetizing at all. Case in point….on one episode she made a bread pudding using Krispy Kreme doughnuts. On another episode, she made a breakfast sandwich with eggs and sausage sandwiched between two doughnuts. On yet another, macaroni and cheese with bacon and a potato chip topping.

Really, Paula? Is this how “regular families” should be cooking?

If Deen is targeting working-cl ass families as she claims, then perhaps a few recipes with veggies, fresh or frozen, would be nice instead of bacon, pork, burgers, butter, etc., all the time. If someone is on a limited budget, frozen veggies are just as good as, if not better than, fresh and last longer, thereby stretching the food dollar. Or how about some recipes using beans? There are several Southern dishes that call for beans. You can make decent, healthy food on any budget, if you just know how.

Although I don’t know much about Southern cooking, I imagine that Deen’s cooking is not respectful of traditional Southern fare. I also don’t think that her response above is really about people of little means. It’s more like PR shrill, given to her by Smithfield, the world’s largest pork production and processing company, for which she is a spokesperson. Deen doesn’t even address the issue that Bourdain raises. She’s really a bad example of why diabetes, malnutriti on, and obesity are so rampant in America. Deen doesn’t have a culinary background and her success is likely a case of “being in the right place at the right time.”

If you have watched Anthony Bourdain’s travel program “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel, you’ll know that in most cases, he’s not eating at high-end restaurants. He’s eating street food in Vietnam or Thailand. Or he’s eating at a neighborhood joint in Chile. Or he’s eating traditional ethnic cuisines at the home of some of the locals in Italy. He appreciates the humblest of street foods as much as he does the finest cuisines of the world, although he’s never really been about expensive meals and wines.

Anyway, you catch my drift.

Whose side are YOU on?

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3 comments on “Duking It Out

  1. I totally agree! I love Anthony Bourdain and Bizarre Foods.. they show a bunch of different cultures and just get back to the basics. Seriously, a pound of butter can make a lot of things taste amazing but you won’t be feeling so great in the morning! I just think it is so unique…the best flavors in the world are the natural ones.

  2. I enjoyed your post. I haven’t been a big fan of Paula Deen’s recipes and I now realize it’s because I didn’t like the ingredients she uses….like the doughnuts in the bread pudding…makes me shiver. However, eating on a budget can be challenging but it doesn’t mean you buy shortening to cook everything in just because it’s cheap.

  3. Thank you. In reading more about this online, it amazes me how many people are siding with Paula Deen on this topic. Being from Boston, perhaps I am biased toward the New Yorker vs. the Southerner. However, today I read an article about how a restaurant chain is introducing a 1,690 calorie sandwich (!) that contains a burger patty AND mac-n-cheese stuffing. Yesterday, I read an article about how another restaurant chain is eliminating its small coffee size and what was originally the medium will now be called “small”, and so on up the chain. This is precisely what AB is talking about — America is heading down a nutritional meltdown.

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