Generally the announcement that a person has a serious disease is cause for sympathy, not derision. (Possible exception: John Edwards' heart troubles. But I digress.)
And yet Paula Deen's admission that she suffers from Type II Diabetes has only inflamed the feud between Deen and bad boy chef Anthony Bourdain.
Bourdain called Deen "the most dangerous person to America" back in 2011, adding that "she revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and she’s proud of the fact that her food is fucking bad for you." After her announcement, Bourdain told Eater that he "took no pleasure in it" but that he questioned her motives.
"It's like I told Oprah a few years back, 'Honey, I'm your cook, not your doctor.' You've got to be responsible," Deen said.
"When your signature dish is hamburger in between a doughnut, and you've been cheerfully selling this stuff knowing all along that you've got Type 2 Diabetes . . . It's in bad taste if nothing else," Bourdain said.
Deen said on Today that she was diagnosed three years ago, but defended her decision to keep it private until now.
"I had to really get myself into a place when I made the announcement," Deen told People. "I would come with information, and I would be armed to be able to help others."
Deen isn't just talking about an informed diagnosis. It was also announced on Tuesday that she has a multi-million dollar contract as a spokesperson for Victoza, a diabetes medication by Novo Nordisk that Deen has been taking for several months. She's also created a website with Novo Nordisk called Diabetes in a New Light that features tips and lighter recipes from Deen and her sons.
According to Bourdain, that's Deen profiting from a condition she helped promote. Or as he put it on Twitter, "Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later."
Deen told Al Roker on Today that she would not be changing the way she cooks and downplayed the role of a high-fat diet — like the butter- and lard-laden foods she is known for.
"Here’s the thing, you know, I’ve always encouraged moderation," she said. "On my show, you know, I share with you all these yummy, fattening recipes, but I tell people 'in moderation.' " She also said she's never eaten her fattening recipes on a daily basis and that people shouldn't look to her to know what's healthy.
"It's like I told Oprah a few years back, 'Honey, I'm your cook, not your doctor.' You've got to be responsible," she said.
But on this point, I have to join Team Bourdain. It's not like Paula Deen is holding a gun to anyone's head and forcing them to add another stick of butter. But her diabetes diagnosis reminds fans that her smiling, wholesome food empire is actually very, very bad for you.
With chefs from Alice Waters to Jamie Oliver pushing a healthy eating agenda, haven't we moved beyond thinking that the roles of chefs and doctors are diametrically opposed?