Paula Deen's “Lady’s Brunch Burger”
A couple of weeks ago, my father got really sick. He had a debilitating pain in his stomach as well as nausea and a fever. He couldn't get out of bed. "What did you eat today??" I asked. "Maybe you have food poisoning." "I don't know," he said between groans of pain. "Nothing weird. A roast beef sandwich. I'm fine. It's probably the flu or something." I googled his symptoms and a host of scary ailments came up: heart attack, diverticulitis, blocked intestine. "Dad, if you don't feel better tomorrow you need to go to the doctor." "Hrumphdk," he grumbled...
The next morning he felt better. "Man, Jennifer, I don't know what that was last night, but I am not eating anything today. Just juice and broth. That pain was terrible!! I never want to feel anything like that in my life again!!" "Well, Dad you know you should really change the way you eat. You've had enough roast beef sandwiches in life." "Hrumphdk," he replied.
My stepmother called me two days later. "Your father is eating again. You know what the first thing he ate was…a roast beef sandwich." "PUT HIM ON THE PHONE, " I bellowed. "Are you kidding me?!?! I thought we talked about this!!!" "Jennifer, I just wanted to be sure that it wasn't the roast beef sandwich that was making me sick." "What. IF. IT. WAS the roast beef sandwich that was making you sick???" "Eh. Well, what are you going to do?"
There is a special kind of stubbornness surrounding food. Food is peace. Food is comfort. Food is your mom, filled with unwavering love and acceptance, in the kitchen cooking your favorite meal. I've found that getting people to give up certain foods is tantamount to trying to get them to give up their mom. It is larger than the food itself. It is a symbol of their identity and a definition of who they have always been. They literally "are what they eat" and if you take that anchor away they are lost.
I was reminded of this as I watched Paula Deen spinning and stammering on the Today Show. When Al Roker asked her if she was going to change the way she eats, I waited with bated breath: Please, Paula. Say you'll change. Say you've had fun eating this way, but now it's time to find a new way to eat that is not only fun but healthy, too. Tell people that the two aren't mutually exclusive. Tell them that America is in a health crisis; one that you will beat together. Tell people that you are going to change your ways. If you do, you will save thousands of lives because it is not the food that they love, Paula. It's you. It's down-home, full of love, bright-light you that makes people buy what you sell. Here is your chance to sell health and beauty and life. Tell them that change is possible. Tell them that if you can do it, they can do it. Tell them because they will believe you.
But she didn't. And it made me really sad. Because I do believe that change is possible. I truly believe that it is not the bacon cheeseburger with a donut bun that people want. They want togetherness and community and happy memories. They want the feeling that goes with the bacon cheeseburger. They want love. Paula Deen sells that love. If she had said, "Come on ya'll!! We're eating salad!!" people would have listened.
We all the know the definition of insanity...thinking you can eat a bacon cheeseburger in moderation. No wait, that's not it. The definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." If the way that you have always eaten has made you sick, you can not continue to eat in the way that you have always eaten. Your body will tell you when it is time to change. You just have to listen, ya'll.
-♥ J :)