By Dick Platt
Corsicana Daily Sun
It has long been said that, in the south, you can say anything you want about somebody as long as you end it with “...bless his/her heart.” Well, Paula Deen, the Savannah, Ga. queen of the Food Network, has sadly discovered that there are some words that “bless his/her heart” won’t nullify.
It seems that, while under oath in a civil lawsuit, Paula was asked if she had ever used the “n-word.” She responded to the effect that she was sure she had sometime in the long-ago past. Well, this response has set off a firestorm of media indignity and a virtual stampede of her corporate sponsors away from her.
I’m sure you know who Paula is, even if you are not a Food Network groupie like me. She is the big-haired chef with the southern drawl so syrupy you could pour it over pancakes. What is amazing is the amount of corporate sponsor endorsements and other money-making enterprises she was involved in. The scope of Paula Deen branded items rivaled those of celebrities/athletes like Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.
Here is a partial list of sponsors and business partners who have dumped, or are dumping Paula. After more than a decade of cooking shows on the Food Network, they are not renewing her contract this month. Home Depot has announced it will stop carrying Paula Deen branded products. Target is phasing out all Paula Dean merchandise from their stores and web site. Walmart has cancelled all new orders for her food items, cookware, and health and wellness products. The drug company, Norvo Nordisk, has suspended their partnership. Caesar’s Entertainment has severed ties with Paula along with Smithfield Foods. The Home Shopping Network QVC has announced it is “taking pause” from working with Paula — they currently sell 130 different products with her name on them.
With all this gloom and doom over her commercial empire, Paula still has a few things going for her. Sales for her new book, “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up” have soared on Amazon from Number 16 to Number 6. The annual Paula Deen Cruise aboard Mariner of the Seas has added an extra departure next year due to high demand. Her appearance on the “Today” show and interview with Matt Lauer drew very high Nielsen numbers. Fans have started a Facebook campaign called, “We Support Paula Deen,” which has a half million “likes” and climbing.
Paula’s original restaurant in Savannah, Ga., called “The Lady and Sons,” has been going great guns with lines of people out the door waiting to get in. The irony here is that all this unfortunate dustup stemmed from a racial and sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former employee in the Savannah restaurants owned by Paula and her brother, Bubba.
“The Lady and Sons” is a truly unique and down-homey country restaurant with some unique signage. Out front, the big sign reads, “The Lady and Sons — our cooking is so good, you’ll think we kidnapped your mamma!” As you enter, you are greeted by two more signs, one above the other. The top one reads “Restrooms to the Left” and the one below it reads “Please Wait for the Hostess to Seat You.”
The menu features appetizers, sides, entrees, deserts, and a large special section called “Victuals,” which is up-town speak for “Vittles.” Here is where you find the real soulful gourmet food items like grits almandine, okra au gratin, Cajun-fried catfish, jalapeno hush puppies, smothered chitlins (downtown-speak for chitterlings), rabbit fricassee, collard cole slaw, and, of course, Georgia peach cobbler. This section also features buttermilk by the pint canning jar, sweet tea by the gallon, and “pink wine” by the giraffe.
If you go there, don’t get suckered in by the “All you can eat for $5.95” buffet. If you try to go back for more after the first plate, big old Bubba steps in the way and says, “That’s all you can eat for $5.95!”
All this negative publicity has hampered Paula’s plans to branch out with some new and innovative ethnic restaurants there in Savannah. She has had to delay the opening of a big, high tech pizza parlor called, “Pizza D’Action.” Also on indefinite hold are plans for two new-age Mexican restaurants called “Taco the Town” and “Aunt Chiladas.”
Happy birthday to me. When this rant comes out I will have turned 74. Who knew?
Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org