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Omnivore - Paula Deen drama: An update of 'Imitation of Life'?

Longtime chef is latest to excoriate Deen.









Kim Severson of the New York Times published a great story about Paula Deen last week. The topic is the most recent accusations of racism and the astonishingly low salary Deen paid a black woman, Dora Charles, whom she called her "soul sister." Charles ran Deen's kitchens for 20 years, most of the time for under $10 an hour. The Times also features Severson's video interview with Charles.

The entire drama brings to (my) mind the 1934 movie, Imitation of Life (above), in which a white woman turns her black housekeeper's pancake recipe into a gold mine. The racism in the movie focuses on the housekeeper's daughter. But you can't see the film now without noting the underlying racism of the entire story, right down to the Jemima-esque restaurant logo. Basically, the film depicts the simultaneous exploitation and affection that has been part of the US's racial history. Can you say, "Mammy"?

Severson notes all of this in Deen's relationship with Charles: