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DARRELL HUCKABY: Don't kick a Southern gal while she's down

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Paula Deen has diabetes, bless her heart.

The lady from Savannah who has become somewhat of a Southern food icon announced two weeks ago that she has been struggling with type 2 diabetes for the past three years. It ain't funny, y'all, but you wouldn't know it from the pot shots the media has been taking at the 65-year-old platinum-haired restaurateur and TV chef.

If you are familiar with Paula's recipes you know that she likes to cook with butter. Lots and lots of butter. What's wrong with that? So do I. In fact, a friend recently told me that the two major ingredients in my latest cookbook were butter and Worcestershire sauce. I can't substantiate that, but I do like butter.

If you know anything about type 2 diabetes, you know that it is a chronic disease in which those affected have high levels of sugar in their blood. This creates a problem with how the body makes or uses insulin. I'm no doctor, but that's how it was explained to me. Most people who develop type 2 diabetes tend to be overweight and eating excessive amounts of fatty foods -- or fried foods -- can make it even harder for the body to use insulin correctly.

That's enough of a medical lesson for today and none of that is my point. My point is that I think the media and the late-night laugh jockeys should lay off Paula Deen. I realize that she is a public figure and to many that makes her fair game, but enough is enough. Whatever happened to not kicking a guy while he's down? Or a gal.

I know a lot of people who like to criticize Paula Deen. They talk about her bad habits -- I have heard that she smokes like a chimney -- and I've heard some say that her dishes "aren't all that special," and I've seen people turn up their noses at the mere mention of eating at Lady and Sons, her landmark Savannah restaurant. And a lot of people make fun of her big hair and her exaggerated Southern accent and -- well, how much butter her recipes call for.

Methinks jealously becomes no one.

I'm not sure how good a cook Paula Deen is or isn't, but I know that she is a heck of a marketer, and she has turned a penchant for fried food and Southern-themed sweets into a multi-million dollar business. Every time I have walked past her restaurant, there has been a line out the door. I have dealt with the reservations department at Lady and Son and every time I have spoken with anyone at her place of business I have been treated like one of the family.

So what if she smokes cigarettes? So did my mama, and I sure loved her. I hated that she smoked, but I sure did love her.

And don't let my son Jackson Huckaby hear you say anything bad about Paula Deen because if you do he will tell you right quick, "She sure was nice to me." Jackson and my "other son," Jon Carter, were invited to help celebrate her son, Bobby's 40th birthday. Jon went to portray Hairy Dawg, Georgia's mascot, and Jackson went to keep Jon out of trouble.

Paula rented out Grayson Stadium, the Savannah Sand Gnats' minor league park, and Bobby and his friends held a pickup baseball game. They served hot dogs and hamburgers and typical concession fare and played music over the public address system and a "good time," as they say, "was had by all."

Especially Jackson and Jon. They both said that the entire family, and especially Paula, made them feel right at home. They loved her. She must have liked them, too, because the next day she gave them the VIP treatment at her downtown restaurant. She walked them right past the waiting throngs and sat them in a place of honor -- right in the window -- and brought them more delectable Southern delicacies than they could say grace over.

She made two fans for life. Make that three, because anyone who is a friend to one of my children is a friend to me.

Which is why I am fed up with the media having a field day over her poor health. A day or so ago I was switching channels and ran across a story on ABC with the headline "Paula Deen caught having a cheeseburger." They said she was "caught" having cheeseburger, like she had been "caught" robbing a bank. They reported that she had French fries on her plate, too!

Give me a break. Paula Deen is a grown woman and she was on a cruise with her fans. If she wants to have a cheeseburger, she can have a cheeseburger. I am sure that she and her health care providers will take care of her health problems without any input from Jay Leno or TMZ.

I think it would be a wonderful thing if people would tend to their own business and let Ms. Deen tend to hers -- and Paula, the next time I'm in Savannah, I'll have a little extra butter on my biscuits, just for you darling.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.