HOT BLAST: Catching up with Paula Deen ... on the high seas
Feb 17, 2014 | 1550 views |  0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Paula Deen
Paula Deen
Remember Paula Deen's mid-2013 controversy? Here's a hint: It involved the n-word, a lawsuit and the loss of some serious endorsement money for the celebrity chef.

To be honest, we had mostly forgotten it, as well. 

Not Caity Weaver of Gawker, though. She booked a ticket for the January 2014 Eastern Caribbean Paula Deen Cruise. Weaver wanted to:

I wanted to know what life was like in the Paula Deen Universe half a year later. I wanted to see who was willing to spend, at minimum, roughly $3,000 to support a downtrodden millionaire. I wanted to see if there were any black people.

Her resulting Gravy Boat: My Week on the High Sears With Paula Deen and Friends (Everyone on the Boat Is Racist and Nice. (including me.)delivers with just the right amount of snark. 

Halfway through dinner one night, our table makes room for a latecomer: a wan, brown-haired woman on a motorized scooter, whom I recognize from the Q-and-A portion of Paula's cooking demo, where she soberly asked Paula if her cooking had ever made someone sick. (This, as it turns out, was the woman's way of saying, "I would now like to share the story of the time my cooking made someone sick," which she then proceeded to do.) The first thing she says when she sits down—the very, very first thing; her foray into the group conversation—is: "I recently lost my best friend." Later in the meal, she reveals that her best friend was her husband.

Days later, when I have returned home to New York and am attempting to organize that portion of my handwritten notes on pages of free souvenir stationery, I will discover a crumpled scrap covered in observations about that evening's dinner, across the top of which I have scrawled one sentence:

"The world is terrifying & SAD."

And what of the star of the cruise?

Even from a distance, though, she is very, immediately, likable. In real life, she walks and talks and looks and acts exactly like she does on television, only more like that. Her eyes, kohl-rimmed and framed by cartoonishly thick false eyelashes, are surely among the biggest, bluest eyes ever popped into the sockets of a human face. She exists in a state of perpetual delight, as if she is constantly being pleasantly surprised, and this delight is a contagion to those around her. Every once in a while her Georgia accent will drape itself so heavily over a word that that word is rendered utterly unrecognizable to other native speakers of American English. My notes are littered with baffled phonetic transcriptions: "Ailey...??"


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