With a royal baby entering the world and another Anthony Weiner scandal, it was just starting to look like all of Paula Deen‘s troubles were over. That’s until Deen’s longtime friend Dora Charles opened up to The New York Times about what a real ass her BFF can really be.
Charles and Deen have worked side-by-side for 22 years. While Deen was the face of the brand, Charles was the real expert in the background, “develop[ing] recipes, train[ing] other cooks and ma[king] sure everything down to the collard greens tasted right.” The Times asserts that Deen herself once said of Charles, “if it’s a Southern dish, you better not put it out unless it passes this woman’s tongue.”
So, yeah, the two were close. They celebrated birthdays together and Deen wrote in her book It Ain’t All About the Cookin’, “if I lost Dora, I would have been devastated.” The following accusations, my dear readers, are not how you treat your friends. In fact, it’s not even how you treat your enemies, unless you’re a mean old racist.
- Even after Paula Deen became a Food Network star, Charles continued to make only $10 an hour working in Lady & Sons, Deen’s flagship restaurant in Savannah, Ga. Lisa T. Jackson, the Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House manager whose lawsuit started this whole fallout, alleges that Charles was making less money than other (white) employees at Deen’s restaurants who had less seniority. Charles’ pay was eventually bumped to $71,000 a year, but that happened immediately following several of Deen’s employees filing suit with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the timing is suspect to say the least.
- Charles says Deen referred to her and to other employees using a racial slur. The Times doesn’t specify which, besides that it is “a racially offensive term for a black child.” The article notes that Deen has denied this charge, but Anthony Weiner initially blamed Al Qaeda for his sexting scandal, so who can say anything for certain?
- Charles also claims that Deen asked her to stand at the front of Lady & Sons ringing a dinner bell, “hollering for people to come and get it.” For those not familiar with the South and Southern customs (I’m from Texas) this is a reference to what would have been a house slave’s job on a traditional plantation.
- For those who like their dining experience with a twinge of racial inequity, don’t worry, Deen found someone to ring that bell. Her name is Ineata “Jellyroll” Jones. In addition to ringing the dinner bell, Jones’ job was to make the hoecakes (a traditional cornmeal pancake) which were served to each guest. In case ringing a dinner bell wasn’t enough humiliation, Deen requested that Jones wear “an old-style Aunt Jemima outfit” while doing so. Jones apparently declined.
Paula Deen is worth $17 million. Charles lives in a mobile home with a rotting floor. Certainly nothing Deen did was illegal, per se; some may even say it was just good business. However, I think we can all agree that’s just not the way you treat someone you call a friend. Are they still friends? Charles seems to think they, maybe, kind of are. But like how you’re friends with someone from high school. You’ll like a photo of their baby on Facebook, but otherwise things are just awkward and every time you go home they won’t stop asking you about riding the subway and you just can’t get over how weird it is that this person you knew at 14 was allowed to procreate.
Mrs. Charles realizes that her time with Paula Deen is over, and that she will soon leave her kitchen. But the relationship will always be there.
“I still have to be her friend if I’m God’s child,” she said. “I might feed her with a long-handled spoon, but, yeah, I’m still her friend.”
As for her motivations speaking out, Charles says, “it’s just time that everybody knows that Paula Deen don’t treat me the way they think she treat me.”