Dear Mrs. Vera: Can Paula Deen redeem herself?

Dear Mrs. Vera,

Can you think of any way that our beloved Paula Deen can redeem herself?

Fondest regards,
your friend,
Emeril J. Lagasse

Mrs. Vera, going to the birds.

Mrs. Vera Newman,
San Francisco, California.
Photo: Fletcher Oakes

Dear Emerald J-Lo Gassy,

You have always been a kind, generous and spicy soul, and it is to your credit that you show compassion to Ms. Deen in what is not her finest hour in the oven or 4 minutes per side in the frying pan. Poor Paula has put her deep-fried Pickle in it this time, but I must caution any and all that compassion, while noble and loyal, is a different thing than forgiveness. While both are felt — and this is especially true in the cholesterol-clogged, plaque-y arteries of Ms. Deen and her followers — sharply in the heart, her recent controversy throws a migraine-inducing light upon a different kind of pain, one that might be felt in one’s mind, if one imagined the lesson of actions having consequences as being an enormous banana split covered entirely in marshmallows held together with canned frosting and tied up with red licorice whips like a roast and swallowed in a single gulp; that kind of headache. All I can say is there are better ways to smell oranges than by having a stroke.

The one breath of margariney-fresh air in this whole uncatered affair was that Ms. Deen spared us the usual simmering gumbo of outright, indignant denial that she had used the objectionable word, saving us at least two weeks of vitamin-draining overcooking of the vegetables of racism she has been caught serving to unmixed company. Her willingness to be up front about what she said, and why, make-up, perhaps, her only avenue towards reestablishing herself as a likeable on-screen personality. But contriteness and panicky sticker shock regarding her falling stock pot of value is a poor substitute for disproving the allegations of rude things one is said to believe or to have done, and it is even harder to dispel such notions than it is to suggest them, even more so when that plantation wedding idea was yours to begin with.

Paula Deen Is What She Is.The funny/unfunny thing is, there is seldom only one hypocrite in the room, and folks as audience-driven as Paula Deen have a hard time not playing-up to whatever crowd she’s playing to. More than this unhealthily-recipied, likeable goof’s apparent racism, which is notable only for her candor about it, is the Southern Discomfort it provokes in others at being reminded, on a national and non-political platter shaped like a platform, that the thought of racism being over and equality being achieved in prosaic American Life is more akin to ordering the surf and turf special and being served boiled ice cream in a taco shell on a garbage can lid behind a dumpster. It simply isn’t the same order, even if you called ahead and made a reservation in advance. We all become uncomfortable when served things on a garbage can lid, and if we aren’t we should be, if only out of decent manners.

On a side dish, sorry, side note, at the risk of making our collective consciousness reach for an Alka-Seltzer™ preemptively, I must ask: Why is it easier to call out, and punish, Martha Stewart for conflicts of interest but not the banks and wall street for the same crimes, and single out Paula Deen as offensive but not the people designing policy meant to punish the same demographic?  America seems to have a thing, even a kink maybe, for punishing women any way it can while men responsible for the same things (like baby-making, for example) just get re-elected, are given a bonus or a high-five.  I think the male libido of this great nation should probably take a pill for that, or at least lay off the blue ones for a while.  Saltpeter, may I remind my readers, is actually quite low in sodium, as many a healthy-heart conscious and once-beleaguered housewife can tell you.

So, is Paula Deen sorrier about what she did, or at being caught just doing what she does naturally?  Her cooking is not exactly typified by self-restraint.  As likeable as friendly people are, when they aren’t sort-of-kind-of verbally implying ownership of you, Ms. Deen will find herself in a sizzling tagine of trouble if she tries to joke and charm her way out of this very Brussels Sprouty Thanksgiving of apologizing she’s created for herself.  Humor has its place (I, for one, am forever looking for- and losing its address!), but while the humerus bone is a big one, I should remind my readers that there is nothing funny, at all, about Cannibalettes, especially the self-inflicted, rolled-in-powdered-sugar kind.  Ms. Deen has a lot on her plate right now that doesn’t look all that healthy or smell very appealing, so my hope is that her vast prior experience in dealing with and surviving such problems over the span of her delicious life will help her find a way forward. Her appeal as a powerful voice in the war on diabetes, which she started but is now in flavor of ending, may have actually increased since everything she now does and says seems a little less sweet, somewhat unappetizing and a bit more dangerous coming from her mouth than it did in the simpler days of yore when she was mostly known for baking apple pies in her wheelbarrow over a grease fire.

Only thyme (ha-ha!) will tell if Ms. Deen can turn the tides of our stomachs back to a the unqueasy days of chocolate tower power and chickens crammed full of barbequed macaroni and cheesecake cubes. But if anyone could forgive her, it’s America, if she can successfully sell it on her teary apology to camera 4 and the weepy wounded one back to camera 2.  I, for my part, find myself quite unable to order the crocodile these days, and am honestly a little suspicious of any restaurant that even serves it.

On the plus-plus size, Emeril, this could be your big chance!  You always wanted to go blond, and I haven’t anything nice to say about Guy Fieri, so I won’t say a thing about Guy Fiery, who knows what he did.  Except that I do think you’d look great in a cloud of fluffy yellow curls with platinum highlights, Y’All.  Bam!


Mrs. Vera, lost.Mrs. Vera Newman is a San Francisco absurdist character, humorist, artist, writer, community organizer, clothes horse and co-founder, with Mister Tina, of The Verasphere. She has been answering the unasked questions she receives from the lonely, empty rooms of America’s heart-shaped circulatory pump room ever since it began beating. Nestled in the politically bent bowels of the Nation since she was a young girl babysitting the very same newborn Nation, her ability to self-reflect about anyone else’s embarrassing shortcomings, inept fumblings or lousy recipes has enabled her invisible rise as a modern-day Cassandra, whatever that means. Feel free to dispose of all your worries by leaving them on her doorstep!


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