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Curious case of Glutton

Fri., Feb. 10, 2012

Before laughing about Paula Deen’s diabetes admission, take time to look in the mirror

So Paula Deen, Southern cooking maven, has diabetes.

America’s self-righteous “foodie” world is sadly clucking its tongue and shaking its head. All of that grease. All of those calories. All of that low-class food. Of course she has diabetes.

Yeah, well, the food world might want to stop feeling so smug. All of you foodies out there share the same dirty little secret: gluttony.

Yes, I’m talking about the No. 1 entry in the Seven Deadly Sins, having long ago surpassed lust, at least in America. And trust me, just about all of us who consider ourselves gourmets, or epicures, or most appallingly, food critics, commit this sin on a routine basis, even if we cloak it in a pious veneer of “healthy” or “organic” or “vegan-locavore- sustainavore” saintliness.

Actually, let’s hear from a genuine saint, St. Thomas Aquinas, on the sin of gluttony.

There are many ways, said St. Tom, to commit this particular Deadly Sin, and eating too much was just one of them. Here are some more items on Aquinas’s list of “You Might Be a Glutton If”:

• You eat food that’s too expensive – or what we might call, “buying organic.”

• You are obsessed with rarities and delicacies – or what we might call, “shopping at Trader Joe’s.”

• You get too excited about your meals – or what we might call, “Lusting in your heart over food.”

• You obsess over meals and ingredients – or what we might call, “subscribing to Cook’s Illustrated.”

• You eat too fussily – or what we might call, “adhering to the macro-vegan aesthetic.”

• You talk and think about food all the time – or what we might call, “writing blogs in which you detail every ingredient in your lunch.”

So by those measures, simply being a celebrity chef or watching one on TV might make you a glutton.

However, let’s get back to the most obvious way to commit this Deadly Sin: eating way, way too much.

Every foodie, every gourmet, must be prepared to eat too much. It’s just part of the game. Have you ever been to a seven-course wine-pairing dinner? You’ll feel like a blimp long before the second part of the equation – feeling like a wino – kicks in. Even the simple act of going to a quality restaurant – the kind with tablecloths – encourages you to eat too much. There’s the Roquefort dip appetizer, the lobster bisque, the braised beef short-ribs, the pureed parsnips and finally, the hazelnut chocolate mousse. Do you seriously think you’re less of a glutton than the guy buying the Jumbaco Combo at Jack In the Box?

As I can personally attest, you cannot be a restaurant reviewer without eating so much that you never want to see a plate of tikka masala again. Yes, in my days as a second-rate food critic, I was forced to sample everyone else’s dish at the table, in the name of research. I had to scarf down the calamari rings at the beginning of the meal and the Three-Layer Chocolate Gluttonance Cake at the end.

Diabetes? Hell, I’m lucky I didn’t come down with gout, goiters, gastric reflux and Chronic Gas-Passing Syndrome.

Even worse were the various food “challenges” and “roundups” and food “throwdowns” we concocted. After finishing the Pizza Throwdown, in which we sampled 60 different pizzas, I felt like checking myself into Sacred Heart for an emergency gluttonoscopy.

So be careful casting (gall)stones at Paula Deen. Yeah, her foodiness is a bit extreme and not exactly on the low-cal end of the spectrum. But I just got back from a visit to Seattle’s Ballard and I saw ultra-hip restaurant menus offering both pork belly and pork jowl.

Maybe it’s time we all moderated our food obsession. Maybe we should all start devoting ourselves to a new Deadly Sin. I vote for “vainglory.” At least it won’t cause diabetes.

Jim Kershner is a senior correspondent for the Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at

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