Dear Paula Deen,
I really want to like you. In fact, I really do you like you. I think you’re one of the sweetest women in the world and I want you to be my surrogate grandmother. You love the simple things in life, and you love your family more than anything. I think that’s wonderful.
But ma’am, your food is probably the worst idea ever. Honestly I wouldn’t ever consider eating most of what you make just because it’s so bad for you, as I’m sure you’ve heard once or twice. I just can’t reconcile you and your food! Please help me, and not by making me eat your food.
PS I am terribly sorry they airbrush the bejesus out of you on all your magazine covers. You are a handsome woman and don’t need to be plasticized.
I make an effort to eat balanced and healthy, but I’m not Kashi. And I’m not terrified of the latest fad-fear-foods (trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup) because I so rarely have processed or packaged food that it really doesn’t matter. I’m also not terrified of pastries for the same reason. I think it’s an okay system. Packaged foods, pastries, fried food, cookies, all come under the same category. They are okay sometimes, and they will not kill you if you eat them sometimes. They will probably kill you if you eat them all the times.
Enter: Paula Deen. Now, I’m a recent transplant and am just beginning to get acclimated to Southern culture. I don’t know if Ms. Deen’s cooking is traditional Southern like she says it is, or if it’s just her. I don’t care. Not every recipe needs to start with a stick, or more, of butter (“stick-a-butter”). Not every recipe needs to be bound with mayonnaise or cream cheese. And fudge made with processed cheese?* Unnecessary.
Why am I writing this? I’ve had this opinion for a while. Unfortunately today’s episode put me over the edge. I was listening to her banana episode while working on my laptop and… well…
She started out the episode with Curry-Crusted Bananas. Basically you take bananas split lengthwise, dip them in a (stick-a-butter) melted-butter/curry mixture, then dredge them in cornflakes and bake them. They look like cornflake-encrusted bananas. She said they go great with pork (I will trust her on that) and “they make a great after-school snack for the kids.” At least she didn’t deep-fry them, but I am not convinced that’s the best after-school snack ever. I am pretty sure that if you took that banana and instead dipped it in some peanut butter, or melted semi-sweet chocolate, it would be a lot healthier for your kiddies.
Then she made a “Cheesy Ham and Banana Casserole.” Yep. I stopped listening after she lined a baking dish with crustless pieces of both-sides-buttered white bread. She raved about it for the rest of the episode. (I am pleasantly surprised to see that 103 online reviews have garnered this recipe an overall rating of 2/5 stars.)
I tuned back in for her take on the Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich. Not a bad concept in and of itself. She spread both inside surfaces of the sandwich with crunchy peanut butter, then “you can add as much or as little banana slices as you want” or something like that. Sandwich it up, then butter both sides of the sandwich. Then grill the sandwich in more melted butter. (I apparently didn’t catch when she said “FRIED Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich.” The recipe calls for a stick-a-butter.) Then – THEN – here’s the kicker – then she rolled them in cinnamon sugar.
I was just on the verge of thinking, “I bet that’s tasty but I could never bring myself to make it, and there’s only a 50% chance I’d eat it if someone else made it,” when she said, once again, “This makes a great after-school snack.” No, Paula, it doesn’t. It makes a good mid-day meal if they’re coming home at 3pm, have to leave at 3:30pm, won’t be home again until 9:30pm, and you’ve got absolutely nothing else in the pantry.
Also, I don’t know about you, but on the rare occasion I make a grilled sandwich I use less than a tablespoon of butter. Or olive oil. Or whatever.
I only listened to the Banana Split Brownie Pizza long enough to know that it sounded really gross and tooth-rottingly sweet. And equally heart-attack inducing. (This one doesn’t have a stick-a-butter. But fear not! it makes up for it in cream cheese.)
Now the thing is, none of these recipes would be so bad on their own – like if one day you just got a craving for a Fried Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich, so you made one, ate it, enjoyed it thoroughly, and then you went back to your old ways of not-eating-fried-peanut-butter-banana-sandwiches. But every single one of her recipes is like this. I just… I just wish she had an idea I could like. I wish I could look at a recipe and go, “Oh, that’s reasonable and not at all ridiculous! Maybe I’ll try to make it one day.” But it never happens.
*By the way, if you want to see the processed-cheese fudge, here it is. Watch at your own risk. Also, she and Cat Cora won an Iron Chef battle including this recipe.