June 26, 2013

Misty Watson: Move along, Paula: Time for a new queen of Southern cooking

Misty Watson

— Finally.

Now that Paula Deen has been overthrown as the reigning queen of Southern cooking, there’s place at the top for a new Southern girl to take the title.

Maybe the next one should use a little less butter in every single recipe. Maybe the next one should put a healthier spin on Southern cooking. I swear, it is possible to cook healthy in the South. Not everything has to be fried balls of butter. I know I just made some enemies with that statement, but before this column is over I’ll have probably made a whole lot more.

I’ve never been a fan of Paula Deen. More enemies! I am sure they’re putting together a mob with butter-fueled torches and carving forks by now.

Her on-camera personality bugged me. That Southern accent and nasally laugh seemed over the top, like an on-camera character and not her true self. And nothing about her seemed particularly hospitable. True, I’ve never met her in person, but I never saw the reason she was lauded.

Deen has been let go from the Food Network after being sued for racial discrimination and admitting to using a racial slur in the past. Even if I’m not a fan of her, I’m not sure that using the “N-word” once in the 1980s justifies her being fired from the Food Network. Of course, there is the other story that she wanted to plan a plantation-style wedding for her brother, complete with all black servers. And more race-related allegations are surfacing daily. Smithfield Foods has also dropped its endorsement deal with her.

The Food Network should have dropped Deen by now anyway. We’ve already seen she can be deceptive and hypocritical when she hid that she had Type 2 diabetes for several years while still promoting high-calorie, high-sugar foods. Everyone should limit those foods anyway but especially diabetics.

How many times can you watch the same woman incorporate a pound of butter into dishes anyway?

I thought the more horrifying “N-word” in Deen’s vocabulary would be the word “nutrition,” not the racial slur. Now the mob members are pulling on their Lady and Sons souvenir T-shirts from that time they stood in line in Savannah for over an hour to eat butter-coated shrimp and grits!

Maybe I could become the next queen of Southern cooking.

I talk to my 20-month-old like I’m hosting a cooking show. Earlier this week, I even took her tiny hand in mine as I used a whisk to demonstrate how to emulsify my homemade honey Dijon dressing for a slaw I was eating with barbecue-flavored seared tofu. I may be kicked out of the South for suggesting anything besides beef or pork have barbecue sauce anywhere near it. I fear my reign as queen of Southern cooking may be short, if it happens at all.

I could stand in front of a camera and talk about how to stuff tofu with tofu and baste it with tofu, as one of my friends on Facebook recently suggested I’d do. The thought of a queen of Southern cooking using tofu is just too much for the fried butter lovers. I think the mob is getting bigger.

Maybe smoky chipotle pintos simmered in a crock pot with corn and tomatoes served with vegan cornbread doesn’t sound as good to you as it does to me. Maybe you’d rather have pintos with half a slab of pork and cornbread with a pound of butter in it and more coating the cast iron skillet.

I get that the South may not be ready for this Georgia Peach to be on TV explaining how to do healthy, vegetarian Southern comfort food. I’ve got to find my way into and through culinary school first anyway.

But I’d rather someone be on the throne who shows true Southern hospitality and who isn’t afraid to tell their fans what’s going on behind the camera. I’ve still got hopes for “Next Food Network Star” contender Damaris Phillips.

And for all of Paula Deen’s fans, don’t worry. She may be gone from the Food Network, but I doubt this will be the last you see of her. Her empire is too big and her fans are too loyal for this to bring her down.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a photographer and staff writer for The Daily Citizen. You can try to convince her of all the reasons to love Paula Deen at mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com and facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.