Paula Deen ordered African-American workers to “dress in an old-style Aunt Jemima outfit” and ring a dinner bell, according to a woman who is still employed at the disgraced cook’s Georgia restaurant.
Following Deen’s dramatic fall from grace after her admission that she had used racial slurs, The New York Times‘ Kim Severson went to Savannah to check out the former food network host’s crumbling empire. Severson spoke to Dora Charles, a black cook who helped Deen open her Lady & Sons restaurant over 20 years ago.
“She said, ‘Stick with me, one day if I get rich, you’ll get rich,’” Charles explained. “It just passed me by. You know, I’m not going to run behind her and say, ‘You promised me, you promised me. Where my half? Where my part?’ You know? It wasn’t all about that. Actually, all I was looking for was a good salary.”
But Charles said that when Deen launched her Food Network show, she was was only getting paid $6.50 an hour.
“I told her, at times, I didn’t even have enough money to buy my own medications,” she recalled, demonstrating how Deen once casually tossed a $100 bill at her when she complained that she couldn’t afford her medical bills.
“She was sitting across the table and she said — it didn’t reach me — and she said, ‘Here’s a hundred dollars, go buy your medicine.’”
“Yeah, she wanted [Employee Ineata Jones] ‘Jellyroll’ to dress like that as well,” Charles remarked.
And the slavery theme wasn’t just limited to Deen’s wedding fantasy, according to the Times:
Ms. Deen used Ms. Jones for restaurant theater. At 11 a.m., when the doors opened at the Lady & Sons, she stood in front and rang an iron dinner bell, something she had asked Mrs. Charles to do as well. An image of Ms. Jones doing just that was turned into a postcard sold at Paula Deen stores.
Ms. Jones was also in charge of making hoecakes, the cornmeal pancakes served to every guest. Ms. Deen had designed a station so diners could watch them being made. At both jobs, Mrs. Charles and other employees said, Ms. Deen wanted Ms. Jones to dress in an old-style Aunt Jemima outfit.
“Jellyroll didn’t want to hear that,” Mrs. Charles said. “She didn’t want to do that.”
“I said, ‘I’m not ringing no bell,’” Charles insisted. “That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day.”
“Do you feel like Paul Deen is racist?” Severson wondered.
“I do, I do,” Charles admitted after a long pause.
“Have you ever heard Paul Deen use the N-word?” Severson asked.
“I’ve heard her used the N-word,” Charles replied. “She say, ‘I tell all y’all n*ggers, that’s what’s wrong with y’all n*ggers now today.’”
Deen’s public relations team has argued that no employee was ever made to dress up like Aunt Jemima and ring a dinner bell.
“Fundamentally Dora’s complaint is not about race but about money,” they said in a statement. “It is about an employee that despite over 20 years of generosity feels that she still deserves yet even more financial support from Paula Deen.”
Both the Times and and New York Magazine, however, obtained promotional photos from Lady & Sons of Ineata Jones wearing an Aunt Jemima-style apron and ringing a dinner bell.
At the time of publication, Charles was reportedly still employed by Deen’s Lady & Sons restaurant, but she said she realized that her time there was almost over. She hopes to one day open her own restaurant.
A friend told me the other day that she'd heard a horrifying report on public radio: You know those deep-fried, chewy rings of calamari? Sure. Well, they're sometimes served in imitation form, made from slices of a pig's rectum. Wait … what?! And so it happened second-hand, as these things almost always do: An urban legend hatched and spread its wings.
My friend had heard the story from radio producer Ben Calhoun, who put it in his segment for the Jan. 11 episode of This American Life. You should go listen: It's not an expose but a charming, funny paean to the hog bung. (More on that in a bit.) Calhoun doesn't really think that buttholes have surfed into our seafood—"If I had to bet money on whether it’s happening [in the U.S.], I would absolutely bet money that it’s not," he told me earlier this week—but his reporting in the piece did leave some tiny room for doubt, and that margin of uncertainty, the implied what if that was central to his piece, provides a blueprint for how a rumor gains the gloss of truth.
Where did the legend of the backdoor calamari come from, and why has it only just emerged? The story started in the classic way, with an email from a stranger. Calhoun heard it from a fan of This American Life who wrote in to say that she had heard it from a guy who worked in pork production. When Calhoun followed up, the farmer told him that he'd learned about faux mollusk from a guy he knows who manages a meat-processing plant. That manager, for his part, told Calhoun that he was 95 percent sure the claim was true, though he admitted that he'd never seen the fakes himself—he only knew of them from the people that he worked for at the plant. And while no one at the plant had ever seen a rectum packaged as a squid, employees there confirmed that they had heard the story, too.
If you like calamari, feel free to read it all and reassure yourself.
My daughter Robin flew in yesterday for a short visit up here in Portland. Yesterday we went across the street to the Laurelwood Tavern and drank lots of beer and talked and talked until we were snockered.
Today Robin did her work (she regularly telecommutes) while I recovered. Tonight we headed over to Podnahs, that great rib place in town. It was Thursday night so along with the rack of pork ribs we got some lamb ribs. Robin was knocked out by the hog, I really liked the lamb (and the pork ribs). Their mac and cheese was great too.
Now we are stuffed and flopped on the couch watching "Wheel Of Fortune". I don't think I'll be accomplishing anything else today. And we brought home a box of meat we couldn't finish.
You're missing it. I'm not sure how my daughter missed this. She travels the world to attend all sorts of cutting edge celebrations of humanity. How'd she miss this? How did you miss this?
Ocean Ave Pops has partnered with Pretty Things Beer for their “Hop on Pop.” It features a hop-brewed tea, orange, fluff and some Jack d’Or wort (beer before it has fermented). We’re most excited for the Lickety Split, available only on Saturday. It features banana, chocolate, cherries, locally produced peanut butter and, of course, fluff in a cool popsicle.
We’ve got savory covered with Brazilian barbeque, Latin tapas, Indian fare and traditional hot dogs from local businesses.
The Rude Pundit has an interesting and vaguely obscene take on the Chick-fil-A kerfluffle. Here. I won't cite any of it because I try to keep a level of decency here; however, Pundit pretty much craps on all sides of the argument.
I get a little nervous about boycotts. I mean, when I discovered that Coors was funding ultra-rightwing wackos with links to Nazis hiding out in South America as well as funding anti-gay stuff I stopped drinking their swill. Coors, to my taste, is crappy beer, so that was easy. Long ago they made up with the gay community, going as far as to sponsor stuff like SF's gay freedom day parade and gay softball leagues, so I'm not boycotting them but I still don't drink their watered-down beer. I remember I didn't buy Shell gasoline for awhile because they supported Apartheid in South Africa, and I still don't buy it because it's notoriously more expensive out here on the West Coast. I don't buy BP because of the crap that they dumped in the Gulf of Mexico, but they may have changed their name. But then I've got a Unocal card and they've been killing indigenous peoples in South America and were behind the pipeline through Afghanistan deal back in the 90s that got that whole ball of wax rolling.
It's hard to boycott all crappy corporations because so many of them have done crappy things to workers, consumers and the environment and economy, and half the time you just don't know. Then again, if you do know you don't go out of your way to support people who are supporting hating a group.
There are no easy answers. But there aren't any Chick-fil-A franchises in this part of the country so my caloric intake won't be influenced either way.
Here's a picture of people praying for non-gay chicken sandwiches:
Here's a piece saying that Chick-fil-A's brand name has suffered by its owner's public stance against gay equality.
Jon Stewart also checks in on this cultural armageddon. Unfortunately, since being gay has nothing to do with culture but with biology this deep-fried piety isn't going to change anything. People are born gay. If you believe in God then ask how come he created gays. Or have a chicken sandwich.