I have hated Paula Deen since long before her recent imbroglio. For almost five years, in fact. Here is why: 2008 was my wife’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. They were, at the time, rabid fans of all things Paula Deen. They watched her shows, bought — and used — her cookbooks, and read all the articles by and about Ms. Deen in many, many magazines.
So it seemed quite appropriate to give them the gift of a fancy meal in Paula’s much-ballyhooed Savannah restaurant, “The Lady and Sons.” Making the arrangements for the event was similar to what I imagine the planning of the Normandy invasion was like. My wife, ever the superb organizer, started coordinating the details six months before her parents’ anniversary. Synchronizing the calendars of her parents, our family, and the families of their other three children, scattered around the country, was an unbelievably difficult task. But my wife got it done.
She then — remember, this is six months out — made reservations for lodging, and, of course, for a table for twenty at The Lady and Sons. Being who she is — thankfully — she called The Lady two months, then one month, then one week before the big event, to confirm, re-confirm, and re-re-confirm the reservation. Well, you know what happened, of course: When we got there, The Lady had no record of the reservation. Though livid and disappointed, given her parents’ love of Ms. Deen, my wife and her siblings decided to try to make the best of things, so we waited in line with the rest of the non-reservation-holders.
And waited. And waited. And waited. FINALLY, after an hour and a half, The Lady was able to seat us … at two separate tables, at opposite ends of the dining area. Their “apology” was a free order of fried green tomatoes, those delivered by our waiter; we never got an apology — indeed, ANY word — from a manager.
Let me say parenthetically that the food wasn’t that great. I don’t say that out of bitterness or anger. It just wasn’t. It was decent “southern cooking,” but that’s all it was. Close parentheses.
One thing you should know about my wife: She’s wonderful, but you don’t want to anger her. Once home from Savannah, she immediately fired off scathing yet articulate and well-reasoned letters to the following: The Lady and Sons restaurant, The Food Network, the Greater Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, the Savannah Restaurant Association, the Georgia Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association, the Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs, and finally, the Federal Trade Commission.
She got a response from every one of those except — you guessed it — The Lady and Sons. Apparently Her Majesty, Queen Deen, couldn’t be bothered with a trifling matter of lowly — but formerly loyal — subjects who had had a bad experience in her castle, on a critically-important event in their lives. Not even the lowest manager at the place had the common courtesy to respond.
So it has been with a certain amount — and when I say “a certain amount,” I mean a magnificently HUGE level — of glee that I have reveled in Queen Deen’s recent missteps.
There seem to be two camps on the issue: those who say, “Well, pretty much everybody has said the ‘n-word’ at one point in their lives, especially those in Paula’s generation,” versus those saying, “No, she should be ashamed. There is never — and never has been — any reason to use that word. Paula Deen is, plain and simple, a racist.”
Stake my tent in neither camp. While both may have merit — the latter WAY more than the former — I think the real issue is Queen Deen’s absolute arrogance, combined with her total ignorance of the real world. Like many of her cohorts in today’s cult of celebrity, Queen Deen simply has no clue whatsoever about the realities of the daily lives of “normal people,” and that she is WAY above all that with no obligation to follow the rules, anyway. Her initial stupid attempts at “damage control” merely cemented her regal, “let them eat cake (with lots of butter)” attitude, in my opinion.
But worry not for Her Majesty. She has more money than God, anyway. She’ll emerge from under this cloud. Perhaps not with her queendom intact, but she’ll probably still be a princess. A duchess, at worst.
Fried green tomatoes, my ass.