Monday, June 24, 2013

Think they’ll Replace Paula Deen with a Vegan?

I posted that question on my “Eat Vegan on $4 a Day” Facebook page of 23,000 fans this week. The most popular response was “Keep dreaming!” And so I do. 
For those of you who don’t follow the Food Network, Paula Deen was a good ol’ Southern-cooking gal with a popular show who eventually disclosed that her constant reminders to cook everything deep fried with tons of butter gave her diabetes. Worse, she didn’t disclose this and then began promoting an anti-diabetes drug that made her even more money. When all of that became public a year later, many demanded she be taken off the air, to no avail.
But her recent disclosure that she had used the “n” word frequently in the past was her undoing and within days, The Food Network announced it was cancelling her show. As a former TV investigative reporter, I am still surprised at how people who have everything going for themselves can shoot themselves in the foot.
About a year ago, I sat next to a man who as it turned out, owned several network-affiliate broadcast stations. He had a wife who was vegan and claimed to know decisions makers at the Food Network. He asked what big city TV market I was closest to. He asked, and I submitted, a proposal for a half-hour show. He eventually got back and said his investors pushed back, fearing objections from meat and dairy advertisers. And so the story has always gone…as I say in my book, “No money in broccoli. No lobby, association, board or corporation that makes it.”
What I hope that some TV network will “get” is that the popularity of shows like Paula are what is killing us as a country. All of us pay for the uninsured who check into hospitals by the minute with preventable diseases of affluence: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, and recently categorized for insurance purposes this week as a “disease,” obesity. We all pay for these diseases, whether is you, me, the government or insurance corporations.
 Ironically, this same week, popular, gifted actor James Gandolfini dropped dead of a heart attack, reportedly just after eating 2 servings of fried shrimp, faux gras and a pina colada. There has been much discussion about that too on social media, whether that’s what caused his death and whether it’s too soon after his death to talk about a suspected cause without an autopsy. One only has to look at current photos and read accounts of “how he did love his food,” (as if the rest of us don’t) to imagine that he probably wasn’t in the best of health, for whatever reasons. 
Whether or not an autopsy confirms suspicions, it’s time that people make say, enough is enough. I suspect that even though as I prepare for the National Senior Games in a month clocking a :08 50 meter dash, and briefly clocking a 5 minute-mile, at 60, even with 2 Emmys and 18 years TV news under my belt, I am not the next Paula Deen candidate. After all, at the end of my TV career, I was told by the station’s makeup consultant, “40 is never too young to have a facelift, and the more often you have them, the more effective they are long term. You just don’t get to be Barbara Walter’s age and look like that.” Since I knew someone who almost died from a facelift complication, I knew I would never get a facelift. The only magic bullets left were diet/exercise. 
And so, I gladly concede TV entertainment to the young, unless some angel out there thinks that a reasonably well-preserved, accomplished sprinter and endurance runner (very rare to do both), trained vegan cooking class instructor (2 times a day, 5 days week at the peak when the classes were free at the community center) has something to offer that was as important as Paula Deen. If so, well by golly, you know where to find me. Otherwise, I’m more than content running most days on our pristine beaches, fielding the barrage of great questions I get on my social media pages, doing YouTube videos and traveling on book tour at the request of my publisher and others. You can lead a horse to water, but you sure can’t make it drink. Gotta run!
Ellen Jaffe Jones is the author of “Eat Vegan on $4 a Day,” and just released, “Kitchen Divided-Vegan Dishes for Semi-Vegan Households.” She is a certified personal trainer/running coach and for availability, can be reached at

Her call-in “Veg Vixen” radio show is Tuesdays, 10 a.m. on Column from "The Anna Maria Island (FL) Sun" 06-23-13

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