Stop the War on Southern Cuisine!

Bon AppétitApparently, the folks at Bon Appétit didn’t get the memo; the one where the New York media declared 2012 the year of hating Southern Cuisine.  I just received the latest issue of BA today and it is a salute to America’s most import culinary region, the South.

I have often said that the Deep South has a culinary tradition unmatched in the New World.  Dixie is to America what Tuscany is to Italy, what Provence is to France, it is the nation’s gastronomic heart and soul.  And no Madison Avenue smear campaign can ever change that.

Many might think that the current assault on Southern Cuisine stems from the recent revelation that Paula Deen has diabetes.  After all the brainless snobs at 30 Rock and their ilk have certainly crucified her for not revealing her condition until three years after her diagnosis.  Just for the record, Ms. Deen has absolutely no responsibility to disclose any illness she may have.  Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to post the entirety of their medical history online for everyone to read before even thinking to say anything.

But Paula Deen’s illness is just the latest piece of hypocrisy coming from the elitists, yet another salvo of class warfare.  I’m not saying that Southern food doesn’t have it’s faults.  It can be high calorie/high fat.  But eaten in moderation it will never cause diabetes.  Ever.  Plus it’s no higher in fat or calories than the celebrated foods on New York City.

Let’s take a fried chicken dinner – 2 pieces of chicken (one breast, one leg) is roughly 550 calories and 24 grams of fat, mashed potatoes adds 240 calories, 9 grams of fat and the biscuit is another 130 calories and 6 grams of fat.  That’s 920 total calories and 39 grams of fat.  Yep, that’s pretty hefty.

PizzaNow let’s look at one of those giant slices of New York style pizza.  It contains upwards of 7oo calories and nearly 40 grams of fat.  Just one of those famous Coney Island hot dogs has more than 550 calories and a whopping 32 grams of fat.  A big deli-style Reuben has over 900 calories and 60 grams of fat.

None of those numbers include sides.  But since we’re on the subject, which do you think is healthier collard greens or potato chips?  French fries or black eyed peas?  The point is no one cuisine in and of itself is harmful.  The secret to eating healthy is moderation.  If you eat and exercise in moderation you don’t have to count calories or watch your fat intake.  Like Paula said on NBC’s Today Show, “I’ve always said, ‘Practice moderation, y’all.’ I’ll probably say that a little louder now.”

So with that squashed, I think I’ll go fix some fish and grits.

Stop the Light Mayo Lie!

Light Mayo vs. Real.

For years people have tried to convince us that light mayonnaise tastes as good as regular mayo and it’s healthier to boot.  Stop it.  Just stop it.  Not only does it not taste like regular mayo, but it doesn’t really taste good at all.  Light mayo is bad and fat free mayo is disastrously nasty.  No amount of advertising and brainwashing will ever change that.

I think everyone knows this.  Sure some people may say they can’t tell the difference but they are lying to us and themselves.  Light mayo is palatable at best.  Fat free mayo tastes like really old sneakers that have been dipped in Sasquatch sweat then slathered with crude oil from the Gulf.  I’d like to tell you how I know this but some of the details from that weekend are still a little fuzzy.

Dukes Light MayoBut the healthy claim, where does that stand?  As it turns out light mayo tastes better than it is healthy.  Common ingredients in the average light mayonnaise include xanthan gum (a sugar-like compound), yellow #5 (increases levels of hyperactivity in children), modified corn/food starch (can cause constipation) and one of the most dangerous chemicals on earth High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

Kraft Light MayoThe body cannot metabolize HFCS so it stores it as fat cells in the liver.  As a result, people with a steady intake of HFCS have liver ailments most often associated with alcoholics and there is also evidence that HFCS plays havoc with the pancreas leading to Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer.  HFCS, despite what those cute but scientifically unfounded commercials tell us, is the major contributor to our obesity epidemic as HFCS causes significantly more fatty tissue growth as an equal amount of calories from table sugar.

The Corn Refiners Association sponsors those misleading TV commercials.  They also maintain a website that is chock full of contrived scientific studies.  I have even been flamed by packs of paid lobbyists on Twitter for expressing my distaste for their lethal product.  That’s right, they actually pay people to go on Twitter and promote their product, not unlike a drug dealer on a play ground.

Winn Dixie light mayoWhat I struggle with is why people think that mayo, real mayo, is so unhealthy.  Sure a 1 tablespoon serving has 10 grams of fat but only saturated fat is bad for you and it only has 1.5 grams of saturated fat.  Unsaturated fat is good for you especially when it contains Omega 3 fatty acids like those found in olive oil and canola oil.  And here’s another secret, most people use less than that on a sandwich.

I know all 90 calories in that tablespoon serving are from fats.  Though percent-calories-from-fat is a very logical theory it is still just a theory.  And when applying it to practice you should really only concern yourself with the percent-calories-from-fat of the meal as a whole.  Regardless of fat and caloric content nothing containing HFCS can ever be considered healthy.

Hellmann's Canola Mayo from amazon.comBut if you are still concerned about the fat, Hellmann’s makes a real mayonnaise with canola oil that has half the fat and half the calories of regular mayo and no cholesterol.  That’s comparable to those HFCS tainted light mayos but the canola mayo tastes just like the real thing because it is the real thing.  They just use a healthier oil.  It’s the best of both worlds.

Not healthy enough for you?  Consider using plain Greek yogurt instead.  It’s very healthy and tastes a lot better than light or fat free mayo.  And don’t even get me started on Miracle Whip.  Not only is that crap not an acceptable substitute for mayonnaise but it isn’t really even food.


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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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