I have never met her, but I have always liked Paula Deen. For one thing, she is Southern to the core, and I am too. For another, she is a cook in the great tradition of my grandmother, whom we grandchildren called “Big Mother.” Big Mother cooked the best stewed corn on the planet. I remember her patiently cutting the kernels off the cob into a pie plate and then scraping “the milk” out. At the end of the process, her sun- splotched arms would be flecked with nuggets of Silver Queen up to her elbows. For a time in the 1930’s, my grandmother ran a boarding house in Savannah and was said to be the best cook in town. These days, Paula Deen is not only a famed Savannah cook, but renowned around the world.
Over the years, Paula’s cooking habits – which once featured cheese, cream and butter as ingredients in almost every dish – changed. Her motivation has been the need to get herself healthy, and to help the rest of us do so as well. What a shame that her updated recipes for food have, apparently, not been matched by an updating of her attitudes on race.
In a legal deposition recently made public, Deen reportedly admits to using regularly the racial slur that begins with the letter “n” in speaking to the staff at the Savannah restaurant her brother owns. For this she has now apologized. She has also apologized and has acknowledged that she asked African-American men on the wait staff to dress in white jackets and black bow ties for a wedding she was planning indicating that this was the way slaves dressed before, during and after the Civil War.
So Paula, join me in making a vow to leave intolerance, prejudice and racism behind. There is so much that is good and noble about the South, and I hope and pray that this is the end of this kind of ugliness. If it is not, it will clog the arteries of our conscience and, in the end, rob us of our Southern soul.
-Rev. Joanna Adams