I don’t pay a lot of attention to food, and certainly not to celebrity chefs. I don’t think the name Paula Deen would have meant anything to me a week ago. Most likely I’d have heard the name, but if you’d given me a multiple choice test, I probably would have gotten it wrong.
I know who she is now.
I’m also not a southerner. I have ancestors who were, but I’ve always identified more with my ancestors and family members who weren’t and aren’t.
I think Atlanta-based chef Hugh Acheson makes a number of important points in his editorial on CNN. He talks about describing his grits recipe to Paula Deen, who just asked, “What’s wrong with just butter and salt in grits?”
Acheson didn’t say it, but I will. Everything.
I tried grits once. I didn’t like them and don’t plan on eating them again. But I’d be willing to try Hugh Acheson’s grits. For one thing, it wouldn’t taste like a bowl full of salt and butter. For another thing, it would actually have nutritional value since it has vegetables in it. It sounds like a reasonably well-balanced dish, frankly.
High-fat, high-salt, nutritionally devoid food isn’t a problem limited to just the South, though Paula Deen’s reaction certainly reinforces that stereotype.
Now, food-wise, I’ve been a contrarian virtually all of my life. But that’s also part of the reason I weigh about 150 pounds and my total cholesterol is around 130 (the specific number doesn’t matter; what does matter is that it’s extremely good). I bought a pound of salt when I moved out on my own, and I’m pretty sure I hadn’t managed to use it up a decade later. I know I still had it 8 years later when I got married.
I intensely dislike mayonnaise and sour cream. I’ll tolerate mayonnaise in a couple of dishes, and sour cream in a couple of others. But I’ve gone stretches of multiple years of eating neither of them, and I never, ever missed them.
And I rarely eat butter. I won’t go so far as to say I dislike butter, but most of the time it doesn’t add anything. Putting butter on stuff is a waste of time and effort. And if I don’t like something without butter, to me the more logical question is why am I eating it in the first place?
Which leads down another rabbit hole. Yes, white bread tastes terrible without butter. So why eat white bread? It tastes terrible and has no nutritional value. Whole-grain breads, however, do have nutritional value and taste fantastic without butter. So why waste time putting butter on worthless white bread when I can eat whole-grain breads and get nutrition out of it too?
Canned peas taste terrible without butter and salt. They also have minimal nutritional value because of the canning process. Frozen peas taste fantastic without anything on them at all, and freezing them preserves at least some of the nutritional value God put in them. So, why not eat frozen or fresh peas instead?
Eat things that taste fine without burying them in a bunch of extra fat and hollow calories, and I can’t guarantee you’ll be 150 pounds and bottom-of-the-charts-low cholesterol. But you’ll be a lot less likely, at the very least, to develop Type 2 diabetes.