SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Savannah celebrity chef Paula Deen is renowned for her folksy, y’all-sprinkled delivery, her lunch-bags-to-riches story and maybe most famously, her liberal use of butter, butter and more butter.
But good-for-you recipes? No.
So it’s little surprise that her latest book made the list of the five unhealthiest cookbooks of 2011, released Tuesday by the Washington, D.C.-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
“The recipes in Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible could have unholy results on your waistline,” the nonprofit group said in a news release. “One serving of Hot Buffalo Wings (three wings) contains 910 calories, 85 grams of fat (including 34 grams of saturated fat), and 211 milligrams of cholesterol, according to a nutritional analysis based on estimates by PCRM dietitians.”
Rounding out the unhealthiest list are books by Jamie Oliver, Guy Fieri, Cook’s Illustrated and the Neelys.
Deen’s work doesn’t purport to be about health food, of course. A search of the book online reveals the term “low-fat” appears once in its more than 450 pages, but “butter” appears more than 300 times.
“Moderation and special occasions are always key to Paula Deen’s recipes,” said spokeswoman Cassie Powers. “She believes that most of her recipes are a treat and not daily fare. As well, often Ms. Deen also provides alternatives in her cooking on how to lighten up some of her classic recipes.”
Dietitian Susan Levin, the physician group’s nutrition director, said the problem is that many Americans do take comfort in such comfort food daily.
“We don’t eat like this once in a while, we eat like this every day,” she said. “That’s why 68 percent of us are overweight or obese and 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes, which is astronomical.”
Americans tend to think home cooking is healthier than fast food, but that’s not always the case with Deen’s fatty and meaty offerings.
Still, Levin sounded conflicted.
“Paula Deen is an incredible woman, I’m completely charmed by her, like the rest of America is,” she said. “She’s beautiful and funny. But you also have to recognize the over-the-top unhealthfulness of her recipes. It’s almost a shtick, it’s cute like her. But it’s just not cute to be sick. It’s not cute to be overweight or obese or to have Type 2 diabetes or heart disease, which is what happens when you eat these foods.”
Savannah resident Marsha Hargreaves said she used to cook and eat like Paula Deen all the time — she had all Deen’s cookbooks — and she porked up to 175 pounds. Her weight yo-yoed on diets from Atkins to Weight Watchers but only stayed put at her high school weight of 115 when became a vegan two years ago.
Now as president of Savannah Veggies and Vegans, the nurse is a gentle crusader for both animal rights and human health through a diet free of animal products.
“I’m not going to say anything mean about Paula Deen,” Hargreaves said. “She’s so personable and wise. She deserves everything she’s gotten. She is probably one of best cooks in America. I think it’s just good for people to look for ways to cut back on high fat recipes and work on not eating so many animal products.”
Hargreaves has a suggestion for Deen, though she knows it’s a long shot.
“It’s my dream to have Paula Deen go vegan for a day,” she said.