That's about as clearly as I can explain the situation, and I think it's important to note all that because it seems a lot of folks are jumping the gun and assuming that she is losing her contracts (Food Network, Smithfield Farms, possibly QVC ...) because she used the "n" word.
Frankly, I'm glad for any reason for her to go away. It irks me to no end that one of her most popular "recipes" (Gooey Butter Cake) is just the same chess squares recipe that everyone in the South has been making since cake mix started coming in a box. And that she is sometimes called a "celebrity chef." She is not a chef; she is a cook. But is she a racist? Fortunately, that's not for me to decide.
What is clear is that the attorney questioning her was simply doing a good job by establishing that, in the past, Deen has used offensive terms and may have an unfavorable attitude toward employees of color. I imagine the questioning was pretty brutal and some of the answers would have been the same for just about anyone of Deen's generation. She asserts, however, that she no longer uses offensive terms and is not racist.
But as I read a portion of the transcript — one that is key in establishing her attitude toward black employees — one portion stood out:
And I remember telling them about a restaurant that my husband and I had recently visited. And I'm wanting to think it was in Tennessee or North Carolina or somewhere, and it was so impressive. The whole entire wait staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive. And I remember saying I would love to have servers like that, I said, but I would be afraid somebody would misinterpret.
Uh-oh. Two restaurants immediately came to mind. First, Belle Meade Cafeteria. I recall when I moved to Nashville the second time, in 2004, when the restaurant was still open but most people I knew refused to go because it felt very racist due the neatly dressed black waitstaff that served the elderly white clientele. I never visited the restaurant, but I was told it felt like a time warp from the 1940s or '50s.
My second thought was Rendezvous in Memphis. The waitstaff there is legendary. It's nearly impossible to get on staff because the men who wait tables there never leave and bequeath their jobs to handpicked successors. But all of the servers are black men who wear very tidy starched white shirts with black bow ties. I believe they also wear white aprons (it is a barbecue restaurant, after all), so it may not be the one Deen is referring to.
I also got a message from a friend who wondered if Deen may be thinking of 79-year-old Nashville steakhouse Jimmy Kelly's. It too is known for a predominantly black waitstaff that fits the description.
It's entirely possible, of course, that none of these restaurants were the inspiration. There are a number of restaurants all over the South (and possibly outside the South) where the "old school" waitstaff is still in place. The Camellia Grill in New Orleans, for example, comes to mind. Though I've only read about it; like the other restaurants mentioned except Rendezvous, I've never been there.
Anyone else have an idea what restaurant Deen may have visited? Do we even want to know? And I'm wondering if the demand for such a place is dying out with Deen's generation or if that type of service might be coming into style with the younger generations who are flocking to "speakeasies" and other retro-style establishments.
According to a press release sent to Bites by an organization calling itself Nashville Fair Food, a coalition of concerned Nashvillians will descend on the Belle Meade Publix to protest the supermarket chain's "non-participation in the Fair Food Program, a human rights and farm labor reform which has been recently lauded by the White House and the United Nations."
Protesters will be joined by Nely, "a tomato-picker from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a farmworker organization in Immokalee, Florida which has worked with the FBI to liberate 1,300 individuals from conditions of forced labor, or what the FBI calls 'modern-day slavery.' " They plan to gather at Vine Street Christian Church at 6 p.m., then head to Publix at 7 p.m. to demonstrate and deliver a letter intended for Publix management.
Full release below:
Even a dedicated carnivore loved, loved that bread. As in, my cat, Eddie. I had warmed some for a meal at home one night and he jumped up on the table and started eating the bread right off the plate. When I yelled at him, he dragged it to the floor and tucked it under his body to ensure I wouldn’t get it back from him. I had to fight a cat over a piece of bread!*
Anyway, this post over at Sweet Betweens reminded me of that bread (and that incident). Problem is, I can’t remember what time of year this lady used to make the bread. I really think it was mid-spring, when it was humid and the temperature didn’t get much above 60 degrees. Though she only made her bread once a year, late October seems to fit that description fairly well. When I consulted the Google, I didn’t find out much other than what conditions aren’t good for making the bread (high temperatures). There’s a lot of science out there, too, about how the temperature and humidity level can affect the taste. And a lot of that is based on personal preference.
What say you, Bitesters? Has anyone made sourdough at home (in this part of Tennessee)? Where’d you get your starter? Or did you make your own? And did you base your timing on the weather or have any issues? I don’t plan to make any myself, but I’m hoping to score a loaf if I can help Alexandra out.
*The cat prevailed.
I tried Duke’s. I want to be hip, I want to be cool, but I just can’t like Duke’s. It was okay in egg salad, but on my tomato sandwich and on its own, it was just too bland and a bit sour. I like Kraft. Hellman’s, too. Even Blue Plate (thanks, Tracey!). But I cannot abide Duke’s. My objection to it started #mayogate (dubbed as such by BJ Lofback of Riffs, who actually prefers Kewpie) on Twitter, as the Duke’s army put out a call of support. Within 24 hours, it became clear that Duke’s is the preferred mayonnaise around these parts. It’s got a solid base in the Carolinas and has been spreading across Tennessee, strangling out the others like it's the kudzu of mayo. Perfectly logical people — and even some Yankees — have indicated that, though raised on Kraft or Hellman’s, they are now firmly Team Duke’s.
So, what’s the difference? Duke’s is the only one of the big name brands that does not add sweetener. There’s a bit more vinegar in there, too. According to commenter, Wallace Powers, it’s more like homemade. But that really depends on where home is, now doesn’t it? Authentic Dutch and French mayonnaise (which I love on my frites) has no sugar (d’oh!). Kewpie mayo contains sweet vinegar and MSG (see?). As for homemade, the first result in my Google search yields Alton Brown’s recipe for mayonnaise. And there it is: sugar. A-ha! And who’s more Southern than Alton Brown? Oh, he’s from L.A.? Okay then, Paula Deen, maybe? Dammit, no sugar in her recipe.
Nevertheless, the south is a large region, and Nashville is right smack in the middle of it, so we’re going to have to learn to get along. Luckily, each one of our favorite mayonnaises are readily available all around town. And at least we can all agree that Miracle Whip is never the right choice.
Follow #mayogate on Twitter and weigh in on this very important matter there or leave a comment with your favorite.
All she wants is a unicorn, that rare creature skilled in the arts of the restaurant kitchen but without the added baggage of unmanageable ego, poor attitude, and an active, raging chemical dependency. Actually, that sounds like a fairly reasonable set of expectations. Those of us who know Elizabeth Bills, co-owner and general manager of The Wild Hare, know that this ad for help wanted was written with equal parts humor and candor. Staffing a small, family-run restaurant that aims to provide high-quality food in an atmosphere that’s family-friendly is a challenge. Bills, whose children range in age from pre-school to college has a natural maternal tendency that extends to her employees, many of whom refer to her as "Mama Hare" or just "Mama." So potential employees need to understand this dynamic before they apply. She rules the roost — er, warren.
Unfortunately — as brought to attention by The Wild Hare on their Facebook page — some contributors to Reddit don’t really view her requests kindly. Though, really, is being compared to Alice Waters a bad thing?
But April/May/June (the months, not Daisy Duck's nieces) are the sweet spot when it comes to outdoor dining. Rolf and Daughters is on top of the case and has recently opened up their 32-seat patio in front of their popular location at 700 Taylor St. When they first opened, I wondered why anyone would want to sit on that patio with nothing more than a view of a kinda grungy urban street. Then I realized that the homey neighborhood feel of the place combined with the absolutely top-notch food will make any extra seating appreciated.
I expect diners to concentrate more on the food and fellowship over the view anyway, and they'll create their own ambiance. Seating is for walk-ins only, so it's also utterly democratic. Chef Philip Krajeck has just released a new spring menu showcasing dishes like baby octopus with black garlic and pork belly, and rigatoni featuring beef sugo and horseradish. Check out the entire menu here. I tried the spaghetti carbonara with house pancetta, ramps and a yard egg on my last visit, and the dish made my toes curl! Fortunately, my favorite garganelli verde with a pork ragout made the cut for the spring menu.
Speaking of patios, one of my favorite fellow foodies in town, Ed King, is on a quest for dog-friendly patios. It seems he and his wife Sharon have fallen under the spell of a handsome young English Goldendoodle named Ollie, and the couple won't eat out if he can't join them. They are currently compiling a list of dining spots where Ollie is welcome.
I pointed them to a crowd-sourced dog list we did here a few years back, but it's probably time for an update.
So where's your favorite place to take Fido when you're eating and drinking? Besides Fido, of course ...
Chan, 64, has eaten at 6,297 Chinese restaurants (at press time), and he has documented the experiences on an Excel spreadsheet, a data-centric diary of a gastronomic journey that spans the United States and beyond.
A lawyer and accountant by trade, the slim, bespectacled man can debate Toronto's dim sum and rate Chinese buffets in Nashville. Name any neighborhood in Los Angeles and Chan — with a few thoughtful blinks — will produce the name of a Chinese restaurant within a few miles.
I wondered aloud on the Internet which Chinese buffets in Nashville he might have visited — and then lo, via the wondrous time-wasting/interconnecting technology of our time, Chan himself responded. "Golden Coast on West End Ave.," he tweeted in my general direction, "but only on weekends." That had been my guess, and it was nifty to have it validated so quickly. But what about the plural "buffets" referenced in the story? "It was the writer's generic reference," Chan replied. "Tough finding authentic in Nashville." Sure enough. Wonder what he'd think of the revamped Chinatown, though. Maybe somewhere in the 7,000s?
Those statistics come from Strength.org, the people behind the No Kid Hungry initiative that is supported by the Hermitage Hotel's annual Share Our Strength dinner. According to the organization, kids who participate in a school breakfast program miss less school and score 17.5 percent better in math tests. The combination of these factors lead to a 20 percent higher high school graduation rate for the breakfast club, and they extrapolate this to an average of $10,000 more in annual salary for high school grads versus dropouts.
While this progression of logic may be a big leap for some to make, there's no question that many kids depend on the meals that they receive at school as their primary nutrition for the day, and breakfast is an important part of that. Unfortunately, not every school participates in the free or reduced-price breakfast program, for any number of reasons that can include space, timing, staffing or funding issues.
No Kid Hungry needs more data to help them drive their initiative to broaden the breakfast programs, and they are reaching out to the Internet for assistance. If you'd like to help out with the information about your particular school district, head to the organization's website and contribute your knowledge. Share whether the school your children attend serves breakfast and you can participate in the amalgamated data.
Yesterday WPLN aired a segment by occasional Scene contributor Kim Green, who narrated an overview of Nashville's evolution from fetid culinary backwater to feted foodie destination.
Reminiscing about the bad old days, chef Deb Paquette recalls this from Nashville in the '80s: “Jose’s, it was an incredible Spanish restaurant. But nobody was ready for a Spanish restaurant! Oh my god, it was delicious! And no one would support it.” Some other familiar-to-Bitesters names who give voice to the story: occasional Scene contributor Kay West, The Catbird Seat's Josh Habiger (representing Gen Y, who are named as a driving force behind the indie restaurant boom) and Mas Tacos Por Favor proprietor Teresa Mason.
How we got from there from here — and who has benefited most from "transitioning" neighborhoods — is a bigger question than a short radio piece can answer, but if you enjoy following the restaurant scene, it's an interesting perspective with some nice in-situ sound from some of Nashville's best restaurants. Check it out.
Take, for example, Nashville-area mom, Taylor. Taylor visited the Sweet CeCe’s location in Belle Meade recently and was, apparently, dismayed to find that there was no changing table inside the restroom at the yogurt place. So Taylor decided it was perfectly fine to change her son’s diaper on a chair in the restaurant’s (very small) dining room. This act prompted a “teenage blonde bimbo” employed by Sweet CeCe’s to request that she take a chair into the restroom to do the dirty work so that other patrons would not be subjected to her son’s personal business.
Now, I’m all for forgiving the occasional error in judgment from parents. I’m sure I’ve been there. Once you become a parent, things change in your brain. Just take a look at any Honda Odyssey on the road. Find one that's got no body damage. But, as the source of my story, STFU, Parents (a blog dedicated to parents’ overshares on social media) indicates, Taylor did not take this request with aplomb; instead she posted a nasty status update on her Facebook page, blaming the restaurant's lack of changing table in the restroom for her misdeed. Last I checked, Sweet CeCe's was not the kind of place that you linger in for hours on end. I'm having a hard time believing that the little darling couldn't wait until getting out to the car or until you've made it home. And if it's a diaper that simply won't wait, you damn sure don't have any business changing it in an area where the public eats.
Anyway, if you were the employee at Sweet CeCe’s, what would you have done? I think I would have done the same thing, though perhaps leaving out any reference to specific genitalia. And if I’d been the mom, I would have been horrified that I was committing such a terrible faux pas. It’s not quite like setting up a potty chair in the middle of a restaurant, but it’s still quite unsanitary, not to mention unappetizing.
So next time you hear some kid wailing at the top of its lungs, just know that it could be worse.
This place has closed
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Marijuana is safer than alcohol!