In Defense of Butter (and Paula Deen)

Foodie Friday

Jan 20, 2012 by

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” ― Julia Child

I know Ms. Deen is more than capable of taking care of herself (She told Anthony Bourdain to “get a life.”) Excellent response to his attention-seeking taunts about her dangerous irresponsibility and “disgusting” food.

Like he NEVER cooked with butter?  Or ate something that looked totally disgusting (baby bird eaten whole, including guts and feet, anyone?)  However, she’s really been taking some major hits lately…hits that are often mean, petty, and just downright wrong.

As for butter (and fat) – our bodies love it  and need it. Our mouths crave that “fat feel.” When we don’t get it, we stay hungry and keep eating. “Low-fat” can actually cause you to gain weight.  From WebMD:

The problem is that sometimes “fat free” is also, well, taste free. And to make up for that lack of taste, food manufacturers tend to pour other ingredients — especially sugar, flour, thickeners and salt — into the products. That may boost the calorie content.  Plus, if the foods aren’t that appealing, they may lead to overeating to make up for the lack of satisfaction.


“Everything in moderation… including moderation.”
Julia Child
So, I cook with real butter. Use full-fat sour cream. Drink whole milk.  But, not every meal, all the time.  I also don’t snack much and I eat a lot of “good fats.” (I remember a co-worker who was always  bemoaning how she just couldn’t lose weight…yet she had a desk drawer stuffed with “low fat” snacks…which she was eating all day…)

ANYWAY, the other day I found myself gettin’ into a ruckus with some folks on Facebook re Ms. Deen and her recent announcement she has Type 2 diabetes.  Reading the outraged comments you’d think she’s been driving to people’s homes and forcing them to gorge on sticks of butter (with a side of deep-fried lard) at gunpoint.  And, how DARE she profit from her illness? (She’s now a spokesperson for her diabetes medicine.) Oh. Please. Like none of us have ever eaten something we full well know is bad for us…and loved every minute.  Or, we wouldn’t take the money for promoting a medicine or product we’re already using.

One woman even said there should be a disclaimer on her show that it’s bad for your health.  Geez. It’s COOKING, people. Something that I bet many of the ragers don’t do much of…those of us who actually use our stoves know how to change and moderate recipes.  Sometimes less butter, sometimes more (yes, more, and more about that in a sec).  Also, those of who love butter know there is such a thing as too much (except maybe in mashed potatoes.)

People (including Bourdain) also slam Ms. Deen for her “crappy” or “disgusting” food.  So, I guess it’s safe to assume none of them have eaten any southern-style cooking.  Certainly, some of it is – um – disgusting (to me – for example – that by-now infamous [at least for 15 minutes yesterday before the thundering herd moved on] Lady’s Brunch Burger (Krispy-Kreme donuts and hamburger? Nuh-uh.)

Here’s the thing. That donut burger is only one of many, many recipes offered by Ms. Deen. (The donuts are also an option.)  I even use more butter than Ms. Deen does in her delicious Shrimp Florentine and Tomato Grits recipe.  Total butter she calls for is about a stick and a half…for eight appetizer or four main course servings.  Now, that sounds like a lot (I put more than she calls for in the shrimp), but I guarantee you, if you serve as a main, there will be some leftovers.  It’s so rich, you simply can’t eat it all at one sitting (and shouldn’t want to…Hello? Personal responsibility, anyone?) I also tweak the recipe elsewhere (no garlic cheese roll? No problem) but then I know how to cook.

If you visit Ms. Deen’s web site, there are a lot of choices, including many healthy ones (and always have been). She’s also posted regarding her diabetes, and is directing people to Diabetes In A New Light.  (Yes, it’s sponsored by Novo Nordisk, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.)

Hey y’all. When I learned I had type 2 diabetes, I decided to approach managing the disease with the same positivity and “go get ‘em” attitude I have every day. In the past, I’ve heard so many stories of people like me that let diabetes control their lives, but I didn’t want to let this slow me down. I wanted to take control and have a delicious time doing it.

So today, I want to bring a new light to type 2 diabetes.  I, along with Jamie and Bobby, are sharing with Americans an exciting new campaign called “Diabetes in a     New Light.” It’s going to be a tasty journey, and I hope that y’all will come along with me…

There ya go. She’s stepping up. Her brand was and is good old-fashioned home cooking. (I grew up with Deen’s type of cooking, and it’s right tasty. Grandmom even kept a tin of used bacon grease on the stove, which went into just about everything.)

Ms. Deen has a disease.  She’s dealing with it and is entitled to a private life. Who knows if her eating habits caused it?  It probably contributed; the research goes back and forth on what is, isn’t good for you. I’m not a scientist or her doctor so I’m not qualified to make sweeping pronouncements on her health.

Yes, she continued to promote comfort food on her show, after her (private) diagnosis.  That’s what she does! (Plain steamed veggies aren’t exactly comforting.)  It’s not like she said, “Hey y’all, I just found out I have diabetes but I’m going to continue to cook and eat all this stuff, all the time…and you must too!” (Hmmm…wonder how many people are OUTRAGED that Mario Batali continues to “push” fattening stuff, even though he’s clearly morbidly obese? Wonder what private discussions he’s had with his doctor?)

P.S.  A great combo of good and bad fat is Wild Salmon sautéed (in a very hot pan) with butter.  About three to four minutes each side, in three good-sized pats of butter, combined with olive oil (another good fat.) Deglaze with a little red wine for sauce. I had that for dinner just last night.  Yum!

P.P.S. Really want to get outraged about the irresponsibility of promoting cooking with butter? Read Julia Child, any Julia Child. Or, watch the movie Julie and Julia; you’ll want to rush to the store and buy POUNDS of the glorious yellow stuff.

Graphic Image:  Veggiebelly.com, illustrating the making of ghee. Tons of vegetarian recipes.


About the Author

Mary Schmidt Has Written 26 Articles For Us!

Mary is a proud Corporate America refugee, having long ago decided that quality of life is far more important than quantity of stuff. However, that said, she thinks money is a very good thing - when used as a tool, not a success measurement. In addition to writing for us, she blogs about business development and marketing at www.maryschmidt.com and about marketing to and by women at www.lipsticking.com. In her consulting business, her clients have ranged from mega-corps such as Hewlett-Packard to local Mom & Pops.
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