What Locals are Saying About the Paula Deen Debacle...

E. Louise

I'd say it's unlikely there's a way for Paula Deen to save her image. Unless she's really got a knack for comebacks.


Meanwhile, I've kept my eye on how locals are responding to the Southern celeb chef's firestorm, at the center of which is her admission under oath to using racial slurs like "nigger" in her kitchens, and essentially tolerating racism as part of the culture of her company. Dropped from Food Network, dropped from Smithfield Foods, and now the target of a tornado of boo-hiss tweets that seem to be multiplying by the hour. This one from The Grocery's Kevin Johnson's pretty funny:



Two days ago, the New York Times published this article, featuring opinions from noted Charleston epicurean Nathalie Dupree and Mount Pleasant chef Charlotte Jenkins


Charlotte Jenkins (left) by Christopher Shane; Nathalie Dupree by Julia Lynn


There, the controversy morphed into a debate over Deen's portrayal of Southern cooking. To which I say... Eh.


Let me rephrase. There were plenty of relevant connections made between race in this country and Deen's relationship with the South in that article. Cool. As for the comments about whether her cooking itself is right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable? Please. Whether or not her cakes meet Dupree's approval matters not, at least to me. Complaints of Deen's racism is what spoiled dinner. That cooking of hers? Maybe she grew up with it, or maybe she took a stab at morphing Southern traditions into her mold. Either way, why does her culinary style matter—or who approves of it—if we really believe calling someone the N-word is wrong?


I look at it like this. I never cared one way or the other about Paula Deen or her brand. I don't eat that way, though I don't care that other people do. I don't care that other people cook that way. I grew up in a region where people cook exactly that kind of food, but their diets and TV-watching habits are not my business. Me, I have jeans I need to fit into and her face is always orange and that's weird to me. Perhaps because of my ambivalence over her, I'm alright with just letting her go away. I don't feel the need to pile on or blast out my affirmation that racism is wrong, that the N-word isn't something our society uses, mostly because the people with the power to keep her relevant responded. Swiftly. Her sponsors and affiliated media giants quickly said, "That's not who we are. Good-bye." She's being sued by former employees for mistreatment, so she'll also have her day in court. That all sounds about right to me.


If she makes a comeback, we'll all learn something about America's appetite for forgiveness (and no doubt, the power of a good PR strategist). 


Meanwhile, if someone had asked me my opinion (which they didn't... weird), I'd have stayed away from taking a swipe at her culinary sins. Hate to risk sounding like those are less palatable than treating other people like crap.


I could be wrong. Sometimes I am. 


I favor the route Charlotte Jenkins took. She didn't take the bait on spidering this into a referendum on anything but what it is. In fact, she said something graceful and let everyone else pile on. 


(I realize I gave Kevin Johnson a pass on the same issue but that was different. His comment was funny...) 


Here's what a few other locals had to say: