Sad to learn that TV chef Paula Deen has diabetes. Excerpt:

A chorus of “told you sos” sprang up on the blogosphere.

“No wonder she has diabetes,” tweeted Jennifer Eure, who lives in Franklin, Va., during “Paula’s Home Cooking” on Monday as Ms. Deen discussed what kind of breadsticks to pair with bacon cheese fries.

More than 25 million Americans, or about 8.3 percent of the population, are believed to have diabetes, most of it Type 2 or “adult onset” diabetes. Like those other cases, Ms. Deen’s illness was probably caused by any of a number of forces, including excess weight, high blood pressure, lack of exercise and high blood levels of sugar, fat and cholesterol. But unlike her fellow patients, Ms. Deen is now enduring an epic public scolding because of her cooking and eating habits.

Heredity, according to the American Diabetes Association, always plays some part. “You can’t just eat your way to Type 2 diabetes,” said Geralyn Spollett, the group’s director of education. But, Ms. Spollett added, Southern cooking, as often practiced, can be particularly hazardous to those predisposed to the disease. “There’s no denying that Paula’s food has a lot of what we call the deadly triangle: fat, sugar and salt,” she said.

I appreciate that the American Diabetes Association points out that diabetes cannot be seen as just desserts for a TV chef whose food is notoriously unhealthy. My cousin has had diabetes since childhood, and she has always been thin. Genetics play a role too. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity to learn about the connection between what we eat and how sick or healthy it makes us. Doesn’t look like Paula Deen is determined to learn much of anything, except when to take the diabetes drug she’s now signed up to endorse. But in terms of changing her cooking? Not so much:

I can’t stand Paula Deen’s cooking and that Southern shtick of hers. I don’t think her food is especially Southern. True, you see a lot of that in the South, but it’s also something I associate with the Midwest — all that sugar and starch and fat. In fact, says J. Bryan Lowder, her food isn’t particularly Southern — it’s working-class comfort food. And that’s why so many people dump on her:

With regard to the Southern thing, I’ll start just by pointing out that Deen’s food is not so much Southern as it is working-class American. Hers are recipes with ingredients that you can easily and cheaply pick up at your local Super Wal-Mart, make in bulk, and satisfy a large swath of palates. True, it’s not particularly healthy; but if Deen has committed any real crime in her rise to fame, it’s been her conflation of what we might call a class-based style of cooking with a regional one. Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten’s chic Hamptons preparations, meanwhile, don’t skimp on the heavy cream or lardons; but, presumably because she’s classy and kind-of-French-since-she-has-the-money-to-go-there-a-lot, we give her a pass.

Same great point made in the NYTimes piece:

Virginia Willis, a food writer in Atlanta, said that criticisms directed at Ms. Deen often reflect sexism and stereotyping about the South, in addition to food snobbery. “No one vilifies Michelin chefs for putting sticks of butter in their food,” she said. “But when a Southern woman does it, that’s tacky.”

Seriously, I don’t know how much food writing you read, but the secret to lots of expensive restaurant food is gobs and gobs of quality butter. And who is ex-dope addict and self-styled bad boy Anthony Bourdain to dump on Paula Deen for unhealthy living, especially when he’ll eat anything porkalicious that they put in front of him. Still … come on, Paula’s Krispy Kreme bread pudding? Seriously?:

Paula Deen comes off as someone who is hard to dislike. But  very little I’ve seen her cook on that show looks appetizing to me, and as a Southerner, I’m allergic to that Dixie-fried shtick (I also get the hives walking through the gift shop at Cracker Barrel). All that is beside the point. I agree with Lowder: the big thing that ticks me off about the way Paula Deen is handling her diabetes is that she’s apparently not planning to scale back much on her overindulgent food (though she has given up sweet tea), but rather has signed up as a celebrity spokeswoman for a diabetes medication — thereby sending the message that there’s no real reason you should change your diet, just take a pill and keep right on eating food that’s making you sick. It’s the American way, I guess.

Well, that’s irritating, and equally so is the fact that she’s known for three years that she’s diabetic, but only decided to disclose it when she signed a deal to promote a diabetes drug. Had people known she was a diabetic, and was promoting food that can promote diabetes, it would have stood to hurt her brand. It’s opportunistic, no matter how you look at it.