I don’t watch the Food Network or any of the TV cooking shows, nor do I know anything about any of the celebrity chefs. But I do know the name Paula Deen, because I’ve been to the buffet that bears her name at Harrah’s Tunica and, based on what I saw there, I was not surprised when she announced today that she has diabetes.
Granted, most buffets (particularly in casinos) are not full of food for people on diets. They are essentially gorging venues that offer high-fat, high-carbohydrate items. You eat all you want, then have more, and then start in on the desserts. I try to avoid them, but a few years ago I was in Tunica with an hour to kill before starting a poker tournament at Harrah’s, and the only other lunch options were a Quizno’s and a Dunkin’ Donuts, so I decided to give Deen’s buffet a try.
What I discovered was that Ms. Deen has never found a food item she couldn’t deep-fry or swaddle in shortening. You know the way some restaurants post the calorie count of their menu items? There aren’t numbers high enough for Deen’s entrees.
I’m not a health food nut, but I realized I had made a mistake as I walked past creamed this and fried that and several dozen people lined up for all-you-can-eat crab legs (complete with your own bucket o’ butter!) and prime rib with extra added fat and — I swear I’m not making this up — deep-fried stuffing on a stick (!). My cholesterol level was rising and I hadn’t eaten anything yet.
I finally found the small salad bar at the end of the buffet. There weren’t many other people in this section (surprise!), so I didn’t have to fight a crowd to fill my plate. It wasn’t the best salad I’ve ever eaten, and I’m sure there was no fat-free dressing, but it was better than the alternative. As I sat there eating, I heard arteries hardening at nearby tables.
One news report today said that Deen knew about her diabetes diagnosis three years ago, but waited until now to make it public because she wanted to develop a healthier line of foods and sign an endorsement deal with a pharmaceutical company that makes a drug for diabetics. How altruistic of her. Wouldn’t it have been nice if, instead of waiting, she’d stopped pushing all those ultra-fat recipes to the public? She could have at least changed her buffet to offer more healthy options. I’ve heard a rumor that there are actually food items that taste good without being battered and deep-fried.
Ms. Deen would call that crazy talk. As she reached for her insulin injection.