Paula Deen’s Fall from Grace

Paula Deen's The Lady and Sons Restaurant, Savannah, Georgia -

Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons Restaurant, Savannah, Georgia –









By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

The last several weeks of Paul Deen’s very public celebrity demise has been painful to watch.  Once the doyenne of Southern Cooking, she is now perceived in some quarters as a racist pariah. What appears endemic in our culture is an insatiable thirst for news of celebrity chefs’ private lives, thinking they are infinitely more glamorous than our own little drab existences.  While I cannot say for certain, this obsession may have begun with the 1961 publication of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her PBS television show.  The frenzy has escalated over the years with the Food Network’s hawking of countless chefs and bizarre food challenge programs.  It is enough to turn one off of anything beyond a comforting dish of homemade chicken soup [neither Giada’s, nor Nigella’s versions, thank you very much].

One thing I do know has been lacking in the muck racking of Paula Deen the past weeks:  Forgiveness.  She has asked, begged, pleaded, and groveled for it, yet Faceless Corporate America appears unwilling to forgive her when the Reverend Jesse Jackson has.  Her latest book, which was scheduled for release by Ballantine Books in October 2013, was abruptly pulled, in spite of its already having sold out in advance on Amazon.

If we step back and look at Paula Deen, we have to admit that she neither killed nor maimed anyone; she neither embezzled nor swindled money from employees or investors, nor did she use politically incorrect language in media venues.  The other fact is that Southern sensibilities have been much ignored of late in Faceless Corporate America’s decisions regarding Paula Deen.   Take a look at the fictional television character of Don Draper and his world.  Ethnic groups are maligned on that show and women are relegated primarily to the roles of cloying or clawing sexual kittens.  I have yet to hear anyone rail against the derogatory jokes about Jews on “Mad Men”.  A large number of viewers rhapsodized for years about the greatness of television’s “The Sopranos”; however, this is one Italian American that took a dim view of yet another program devoted to Italian American thugs.

Paula Deen has admitted the error of what she said.  Who are we not to forgive her when we ourselves are guilty of different versions of the same regarding ethnic biases we harbor, if we are truly honest with ourselves? We many not verbally articulate these prejudices, yet Faceless Corporate America seems to think its ca-ca doesn’t smell.  Well, guess what?  It reeks.

Ciao for now.

Le Chat Bleu

Coco Chanel resting -

Coco Chanel resting –

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

I love Saturday mornings.   My bed’s mattress is plush, like a floating cloud.  My pillows are delightfully firm and are covered with Italian linen pillowcases, very enticing for a summer night’s sleep, which is why on this particular Saturday morning I didn’t appreciate Coco Chanel the Cat strolling up my side, which caused me to roll over on my back, thereby enabling her to plant herself squarely in front of my face. I blinked and saw her green eyes peering back at me.

“Chanel, go play with your Plaid Mouse toy,” I pleaded.

Suddenly I started: I thought I was dreaming:  Her paws were bright blue.

I nearly fell out of bed in my haste to scrutinize those formerly white paws.  I hightailed it into the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room, the study, the sunroom, to no avail.  There was no spillage of blue anything, anywhere.  Upon reaching the dining room, I skidded to a halt.  The day before, my daughter decided to pull out her paints and canvases.  Beyond the artist’s easel that held a large unfinished canvas of several years ago, lay a newly painted blue canvas with two paw prints on it.  I picked up Coco Chanel, studied the paw prints and realized that she must have strolled across the canvas in the wee hours of the morning.  True to her catness, Coco Chanel, had manifested intense interest in t brush strokes as Anjelica painted, but the cat had backed away from the paint itself.

Coco Chanel must have overcome her reservations of the paint sometime before 8:24 a.m., the time she bounded up on my sleeping self.  When Anjelica checked her white bedspread, she found little blue paw prints in patterns across the bed.  The painted paws must have dried prior to leaping on my bed.

Blue-footed Coco Chanel -

Blue-footed Coco Chanel –

Frantic to remove the paint from Chanel’s paws, I was uncertain whether or not the cat had ingested paint.  It turned out to be a non-toxic, water-based oil paint, but was it toxic for cats?  We tried sticking her paws in tepid water and then rubbing them with a clean, soft washcloth to no avail.  I phoned the local Vet Emergency Clinic, which referred me to the APCA Animal Poison Control at 888-548-2423.  This outfit maintains a huge database of information on toxins.  The individual at Animal Poison Control asked me multiple questions, and then had read information on the Grumbacher MAX 2 Thalo Blue tube of paint.

Here is what we had to do:

1.  Pay the $65 Consultation Fee.

2.  Rub either vegetable oil or butter on her blue paws to loosen the paint.  Coco Chanel is a Julia Child disciple in that she is always angling to eat butter.  We used butter.

3.  Wipe off the butter.

4.  Spread Palmolive Dish Soap on the blue paws.

5.  Rinse the paws to remove the Palmolive soap.

6.  Dry the paws.

7.  Clip any remaining blue painted fur from her paws.

8.  If the cat drools, vomits, or refuses food over the next two hours, take her to the Vet Emergency Clinic immediately with the Animal Poison Control Case Number.  No further charges would be incurred for further consultation with Poison Control for this case.

Here are the results of said advice:

1.  We thanked our lucky stars our seven-pound cat didn’t have her front claws             because to say she was resistant to our efforts would be a gross understatement.

2.  Anjelica and I were covered in butter, Palmolive soap, and black and white             cat fur. Cats release fur when stressed.

3.  The cat did not drool, vomit, or refuse food; however, for some hours she did refute our attempts to pet her or be anywhere near her.

4.  We opted not to further stress the cat or ourselves by clipping the long fur on her feet.

5.  Anjelica plans to frame the canvas of Coco Chanel’s paw prints.

6.  Coco Chanel’s paws are now light blue.

The remains of the paint will ultimately vanish from Coco Chanel's paws -

The remains of the paint will ultimately vanish from Coco Chanel’s paws –

Ciao for now.



Toujours bon appétit, Julia!

Cover of "Appetite for Life: The Biograph...

Cover via Amazon

One of my great passions is cooking.  Whether it is for family, friends, or myself, the art of cooking never fails to intrigue me.  At a young age I attempted to emulate my mother, who herself was a wondrously wonderful cook.  How well I recall the sheer joy of opening a present from Mama.  Inside the colorful wrappings lay my first cookbookBetty Crocker’s Boy’s and Girl’s Cookbook.  Since that first cookbook, rarely have I stopped cooking for any length of time.


Julia Child entered the world on August 15, 1912.  My father was already two years old when she arrived; my mother didn’t appear on the birth horizon until 1915.  Today Julia Child would have celebrated her 100th birthday.    What a fascinating person she was, to say the least.  With brio I read her book My Life in France, which my daughter bought me in 2006, the year of its publication.  I have read and re-read the book multiple times over the years in which she eloquently expresses her ardor of FranceAppetite for Life:  The Biography of Julia Child, by Noël Riley Fitchstands dog-eared on my bookshelf from numerous readings too.  Other books, both by Julia Child and those written by others about her, have enlightened me too.

Cover of "Mastering the Art of French Coo...

Cover via Amazon

Yet the coup de grâce, the crème de la crème of them all is Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Heavenly is the only word to describe her Boeuf de Bourguignon.  Every time I make it, and I never stray from her recipe, it turns out perfectly:  so moist, succulent, and savory that one could bask in the euphoria of it throughout the night, along with a glass of fine vino rosso.  This recipe alone would have put her on the culinary map in my humble opinion were not other recipes from the book superb, like her Reine de Saba cake.


Tonight over dinner I plan to raise my glass of Pinot Noir and toast Julia Child, who so aptly counseled us:  Toujours bon appétit!  Bon anniversaire, Julia!


Ciao for now.