Harry Truman is credited with the phrase - "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Cooking icon Paula Deen has put that adage to the test. Deen admitted to using racial slurs in the past and now faces a great deal of “heat.” The Queen of Southern Cooking has been dethroned from television's Food Network, as well as losing numerous endorsements.
When the Deen controversy first broke, I didn't pay much attention – only glancing at the headlines. I thought that she had a senior moment (old age slur?) and said something stupid on camera. When I learned how mundane the “revelations” made in a court deposition were, it piqued my interest. Why did a non-story, become a headliner? Okay, a 66-year-old woman from Georgia admits to using a pejorative word for African Americans, in private conversations. Not exactly the most surprising admission ever made. I find it more remarkable that Deen was honest in her response to a very personal and to say the least – awkward inquiry. We can only hope for such candor from others who are public figures.
Apparently, the thought police have a special meat cleaver to grind with television cooks. Five years ago, Rachael Ray ran afoul with her version of political incorrectness that was even more obtuse than Paula's. On an Internet ad for Dunkin Donuts, Ray wore a scarf around her neck that kinda, sort of resembled a Palestinian pattern if you weren't wearing your reading glasses. Some folks in the blogosphere connected the dots. Palestinians, terrorism, scarf, donuts, it all added up to a jihadist conspiracy that had to be stopped. Fortunately for Ray, she didn't have any contracts terminated – only a commercial was sacrificed on the altar of “social sensitivities and responsibilities.” Deen is facing a much sterner response from Corporate America which is treating her like the proverbial hot potato. Smithfield, which is the largest producer in the world of pork and pork byproducts, became concerned that Deen didn't meet their standards of “purity.” While the company is currently considering a buyout from a Chinese firm, they apparently think that Deen has become “Un-American,” and her ties to the company have been cut.
Deen's yet to be published cookbook was already topping sales charts in pre-orders. Her publisher, Random House, described it as a "difficult decision" when they canceled publication. “Difficult decision” is code for running scared and caving in to paranoid- based fears of possible customer backlash. Markus Dohle, CEO of Random House is German. Let's think this through in proper twisted logic. Dohle, no doubt has some family lineage to dead Nazis. It's even possible that in a private conversation, he has said something positive about Hitler or the Third Reich. I wonder how Herr Dohle or the other corporate heads that dumped Deen would feel if their verbiage was microscoped? Remember, context is irrelevant when you are on a witch hunt.
Rachael Ray is no terrorist, and neither is Paula Deen a KKK Grand Wizard. Character assassination and distortion is easy - ignoring it, is a lot trickier. Another great celebrity cook, Julia Child, said, “Everything can have drama if it's done right. Even a pancake.” Unfortunately, almost everything can also have drama when it is handled poorly.