When Paula Deen announced this week that she has type 2 diabetes, critics of the Food Network’s star Southern chef responded, “What did she expect?’’ They have a point: Deen’s oeuvre could double as a foods-to-avoid list for anyone trying to cut back on fat and calories. Deen’s perennial critic, fellow celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, upped the ante, knocking Deen for taking an endorsement deal for the diabetes medication Victoza. “Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later,’’ Bourdain tweeted.
But that needling misses a more important point: Deen’s illness presents her with a powerful opportunity. Over 25 million Americans have diabetes. Who better to convert them to healthier eating than the self-proclaimed “queen of Southern cuisine?’’
Deen has always argued that cooking is about more than food — it’s about family and community. If she could merge that soulful message with some healthy advice — perhaps featuring tasty-but-slimmed-down meals — that would be a recipe worth following.