Monday, June 24, 2013

Deen of iniquity

VOGUE copyright Conde Nast
© 2013
© 2013 KM Fikes
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from KM Fikes is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KM Fikes & with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  No excerpt or link may be used for monetary compensation.

Watermeltin' On the Vine,  ©

What is southern cuisine?  How was it derived?  Who perfected the feast despite the perils of the conditions under which it dared to endure?  The NYTimes approximates Paula Deen's fortune - from soul food - at $17 million.  Like Elvis - the King - who capitalized on music with southern roots too deep in African-American invention, Ms. Deen's edible empire has an undeniable lineage.  The menu in her frequented Savannah restaurant is a testament to slave labor's legacy. 

How is this applicable to why, you, gentlesoulfolk, return to H2Omeloncholy™ - both the blog and the concept?  

Many the Mammy birthed the very recipes that brought Ms. Deen to prominence.  In 1989, the marketing wizards, hired by Quaker Oats Co., gave Aunt Jemima a make-over to promote a'aura', if you will.  (Kid ya not, homez...Can't make this up:  'Quaker' has 'owned' Aunt Jemima since 1926.  Choke not upon that melon seed.)  Oh, so H20meloncholic, their attempt at cosmetic poli correctitude only made/makes melon far mo' visceral.  One can now find her down the grocery aisle ex the bandanna, in a hair relaxer, topped off with pearl stud earrings.  Jemima's cousin, Mrs. Butterworth, conversely, is still the unflattering shape of a syrup jar.  At least her owner, Pinnacle Foods Group, rolls hard n' keeps it real.  Whether updating her image on the side of a quasi-edible product box or still tipping her plastic cap over pancakes, neither proprietary-branded sister has hosted her own cooking show nor hawked her own line of pots and pans.

Pointedly, one would no sooner charge Ms. Deen with deliberate exploitation of Oppression's culinary ingenuity than one might indict the aforementioned Rock n' Roll Royalty.  Herein lies the angst that is H2Omeloncholy.  We are but the sons and daughters of past, grey...grey sky-ed, lightening-struck summers.  Our cultural culpability is intrinsically linked.  The fabric of our nation is an ill-fitted, threadbare, cotton tee that still fancies itself pristine from diligent washing yet denies the existence of an overt watermelon stain - straight down the middle. 

It is too easy to banish the embodiment of a remnant or relic off the air waves like Romeo to Mantua.  The play - ever tragic - does not end there.  Just gets juicier.  In fact, the narrative relies on the absence of the melon-thumped-hard conversation.  Or to quote POTUS, "a teachable moment".  Sure, we can just excuse the fate of literature's most legendary teen couple as 'star-crossed'.  Even as an advocate of expert astrology, the evidence of celestial behavior's direct influence on the Bard's plot alludes us all.  What can be verified is a fatal failure to communicate.  Firstly, why were the Montegues and Capulets mutual haters?  Did they, themselves, even know?  Why did it take the double suicide of their children to give their feud - as ancient as mysterious - some pause?  Then that letter!  Had Romeo peeped Friar Larry's scroll, he would have known Jule's had only nodded off in the tomb and would anon...awake.  

Point?  Ms. Deen's alleged fair use policy of antebellum vocabulary is a mating call to adult discussion.  What is accomplished most by her banishment is a false sense of societal atonement that then, distorts authentic, cultural advance.  Um...perhaps that last sentence can expedite the definition of H2Omeloncholy™...when one took up an entire post to articulate it, complete with excerpts. 

Ye may note how little has been written - here - concerning Ms. Deen's specific commentary which landed her in the hot water usually boiling, daresay, crackling off kilter for fried accoutrement.  The gentility of Shakespearean slayings is preferred by far.  Besides, high upon a hallucinogen, one could not conceivably fathom, say, an Auschwitz-themed bridal shower where one might request a Jewish catering staff serve in striped pajamas whilst a henna artist tattoos guests of wrists and martinis are placed on yellow star-shaped coasters.  Defies less civility or decency than it salad-tosses logic.  What, then, can begin to be written?  One apologizes profusely to anyone offended by the comparison but the Holocaust is one atrocity rarely - if eva - recalled as quaint or nostalgic.

Insight is always appreciated; one finds oneself longing for it.  Careful for what we wish.  Ms. Deen has provided us with much more insight than imaginable.  Notably, Ms. Deen's apologies are too awkward not to be honest.  Such counts.  Each attempt at rectitude reflects an oblivious angst - utterly inconvenienced by conflict.  If indeed, she is genuinely befuddled, her own reaction constitutes H2Omeloncholy.  Although ignorance cannot be innocent, it can be achingly insular - exposing another world. 

Altered dimensions should not be ignored.  At all.  

When axial-titled perception - of the individual - is this far out of season, it illustrates internal denial, not in its extremes, but societal-sanctioned normality.  This rejection of reality is more than commercially beneficial.  It is a necessary societal ill - promoting the myth of privilege as inherent and above reproach.  Truth changes that narrative, obliterating the perpetuation of said privilege in our 'classic' plot where the dominant culture remains foreva the justified protagonist.  States of mind - and their subsequent comments - become the parallel universes or Bill Maher-ian "bubbles" where recollection is as suspended as gravity once past Earth.  Strange occurrences are oft reported from this realm like conservative law makers acquiring inexplicable, alternate wisdom of gynecology or southern plantations existing in memory as big ol' parties, ya'll.  These twilight zones can cross into first, consciousness, secondly, jurisprudence and/or commerce and finally, basic cable 'channeling'.  There, the junk or comfort conversation, with its empty-calorie dialogue, is consumed by the masses in second helpings of syndication.  

All that one is willing to lend on the particulars of this stupefying subject is how - if forced to choose between either diss - one would actually prefer the racial slur to a diet-induced diagnosis of Type 2(ness).  I know I am not a nigger but we are what we eat.  Therein lies the greater error which perhaps Food Network execs might have ethically explored prior to their present, lard-laden brew ha ha.  

Is it fair to paint Paula Deen as da Moment's face of racism?  Fairness is relative.  In this instance - at least - such would be the truth and far mo' honest than some fictionalized, despicable boogey-man.  Believing that racism is delivered only thru snarling, stained, crooked teeth is entirely unfair to us all.  That assumption gives it no 'teeth' - although maybe a bright veneer.  It insults our maturity and diminishes our capacity or hopefully, inclination to evolve.  Finally!  One remains melonystified that something as complexed as an Ism is incessantly delineated into an either/or 'prop'.  Might the greater danger be the contraction of racism...back...inside the proverbial box?  Speaking of props - not proposition now but a proposal:  

Cracked glass half-full?  Nuanced.  Cracked glass half-empty?  Insidious.  

If Ms. Deen is the instant face of race, it is just for today, in an attention-deficit news cycle.  Tomorrow, unfortunately, another will inevitably peek into our mirror.  And that mirror - ours - is key.  Ms. Deen's face - and the next - peer an image of this land back to/at us.  What we view is not evil though it cannot qualify as benign.  The reflection is an empathetic offering which we habitually decline.  Just too difficult to accept about ourselves.  

Racism, today, is less a word or act or even official policy.  It is past the core of etiquette, in the depth of our attitudes and understandings and choices.  How do we connect - at a substantive level?  Take watermelon.  As a 'wet' connotation.  It can add an industrious twist to a Jim Crow (re)mixologist's mint julep.  Or...not And?  Its seeds might spit infinite symbolism about which some 'post'-Gen X poet may blog ad nauseum.  How does that incongruity inform interactions in the acceptable workplace, down the picturesque street, and upon the cook(ed)-book-season(ed) dinner table?  When we eliminate the coziest of pop cultural players from the prospect of bigotry, Isms remain as unexplored as our fear to own them and as untapped as our resiliency to be and do better.

REPEAT:  Your H2Omeloncholy excavator has no invested interest nor personal inclination to further pillory the woman at the eye of this high caloric storm.  Frankly, one laments that apparent compulsion in human nature's ego - exacerbated by this very format.  Might the vehement vilification of the worst in others prevent the emergence of our own best?  Further, do we not generally arrive at this 'best' thru a conscious concession to some scrap of humility and/or grace?  To slaughter a Bard line, "What a 'we' that we be!" **  This 'we' is, by design, a collective.  The health of our collective relies on honest examination in compassionate critique.  Along with any fellow, wretchedly contradictory, implausibly saccharine, days-old crumbs left of the Confederacy, one's wish for Ms. Deen is only sincere:  altruistic responsibility, critical internal assessment, measurable growth, and infectious healing.  Ironically - or maybe not so - such mirrors the intention for every post of this blog.  Nevadaless, my good peops, this a thematic blog thus when current events give us melons, we should reiterate...must...maketh melonade. 

a clever as compassionate critique
on the implausibility of

Til our next 'post', feast upon produce in season...

**  "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"  A Midsummer Night's Dream Act III, Scene 2

© 2013 KM Fikes 
© 2013
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from KM Fikes is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to KM Fikes & with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  No excerpt or link may be used for monetary compensation.

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