I love Paula Deen. Objectively, this adoration makes no sense. I shop at Whole Foods. Dehydration is almost a religion to me. I ate kale and quinoa years before they were cool. I don’t eat anything that’s been deep-fried or that ever walked, ran, hopped or flew. I make grilled tofu that carnivores beg for. And yet I love to watch her cooking show.
I melt when she says things like, “We’re gonna’ start with an 8 oz. package of cream cheese and a stick of butter that’s been brought to room temperature and we’re gonna’ beat that until it’s creamy.” Mind you, I can’t even imagine eating the dishes she’s famous for. The thought of eating something like, Paula’s Fried Butter Balls, Gooey Butter Cake, or the Ladies’ Brunch Burger (a seasoned burger patty toped with two pieces of bacon and a fried egg, sitting between two Crispy Cream donuts*), makes my body reel.
Clearly my love for Paula Deen isn’t about the food. It’s about the lifestyle she represents – a lifestyle that revolves around comfort. Even in Paula’s post-diabetes trimmed down world, food is more than just the sum of its nutritional and not-so-nutritional parts. Food is something you enjoy for the pure pleasure of it. Food is comfort. And the comfort lifestyle she celebrates is about more than food. She told Peter Sagal on in an interview on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, the NPR quiz show, “I want, when you walk into my house, I hope it says to you, ‘Oh Come in.’ I want people to feel like they’re comin’ home.”
From my vantage point, Paula Deen doesn’t just like comfort. She radiates it. Her easy-going style sends a message to my body to R*E*L*A*X – something I struggle to do even in a yoga class. And even though I’ve never met her, when I hear her voice or see her on TV, I feel welcomed — like all I have to do is knock and she’d invite me in, offer me a Coke or a cup of coffee and I’d be wrapped in her love. And maybe that’s it – when you are confronted with this sort of no-strings- attached kind of love, who can help but love back?
* Even before she started watching what she ate because of diabetes, Paula Deen said you were only allowed to have one of these in a lifetime.