Butter Makes Everything Not Related to Racism Better

We look at the menu, but we both order the buffet. This buffet isn’t like Golden Corral with its vast selection of mediocre food; the heated food island at Lady & Sons carries fewer items cooked to perfection. Workers from the kitchen are constantly replacing empty trays with hot full ones with aromatic food vapors rising from them. All the food represents true Southern cooking: barbecue pork, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, black-eyed peas, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, caramelized sweet potatoes. We want to try everything, but we also want to pace ourselves.

Reilly returns from the buffet with a fully loaded plate. We made a reservation that day before, because Lady & Sons often has long lines. Savannah charms with its old houses and trees dressed in Spanish moss, with branches sprawling toward the sky. The town sits along a river with the same name. We had been observing the sauntering citizens and anxious tourists during our walk to the restaurant. It is nice to sit down, and we are starving.

Southern cookin'

Everything I try is delicious. Reilly and I go back for a second plate, and we know early on that we’re almost done. The food tastes so good, but we don’t know if our stomachs have any more space. We start to slow down, but we still want to experience all the textures and tastes on our plates.

We have been on vacation for almost a week; we have been indulging for nearly every meal. Our stomachs should have been sufficiently stretched for a good buffet. But I have gotten to the point where I can barely lift my fork, and all I want to do is put my head down on the table or lie on the floor and wait for someone to step on my stomach and make me barf.

At first, I don’t understand why I got so full that quickly, but then it hits me: butter. If you know Paula Deen’s style of cooking, you know that she uses butter in everything. I tasted it in all the food on my plate. Butter makes everything delicious, but it also coats everything. It adds an invisible layer that makes you think you can eat more than your stomach can hold. The next time we eat at a restaurant like Paula Deen’s, I have to remember that food prepared with butter triples the volume of food without butter.

And then there is dessert. I take a tiny taste of the peach cobbler and the banana pudding, and then I’m done. I’m beyond done. I have packed my digestive system to nearly bursting. We take a few pictures outside and shuffle to a nearby square to recuperate and for Reilly to ask John Wesley for forgiveness for eating too much.

Lucky to lift the camera to take this picture.

Forgive us for eating too much, sir.

Sometime in the weeks after we return from Savannah, we hear news of a lawsuit. Headlines are everywhere. There are sexual harassment charges. There is a deposition with racial slurs.  There is vilification and a crumbling empire.

I feel bad for Paula Deen. She built her company from virtually nothing. She’s best known for cooking everything with butter and she was even coming out with her own brand of butter. She’s tackled her diabetes gracefully in the public, and she has all but completely disarmed America with her thick Southern accent, her strong personality, and her delicious food.

It’s a shame that instead of presenting a mighty dynasty before us, she has now reminded us that racism is alive and well in today’s society. It may be that she testified to saying certain things decades ago, and we may argue that because she said those things a long time ago doesn’t mean she’s racist now. And we can’t necessarily know Ms. Deen’s thoughts from moment to moment.

Yet, the instant that people reacted to Paula Deen’s statements or the media’s treatment of her is when the story became bigger than the icon. Racism is bigger than Paula Deen and her apologists.

A few days ago, I read this blog post that uses deposition excerpts to explain how a lot of reactionaries still hold on to a racist mentality. The author makes a good argument for a civil conversation. Like Ms. Deen’s butter-style of cooking, many of her defenders coat current racism in slippery justification that seems more appealing and more palatable. They ingest each dangerous illusion. Their guts fill quickly with these exquisite excuses, but they eat more. And more. Over time they become diabetic, and they lose circulation, then limbs, and ultimately, sight. They don’t see that Paula Deen has become the whipping boy for racism, and they’re going to keep saying and thinking racist thoughts as if it’s not the same.

Or maybe they’ll learn and improve themselves for a change. Maybe they can take an antacid or something and reduce the bloating and the blindness. Let’s hope.

Go Fourth and Ryed

For July 4th, my roommate, another friend and I took the Metro North Railroad, New Haven Line to Rye, New York. Westchester County. We caught a shuttle bus to the Rye Playland. A playland, you ask? Why yes. A playland. What is exactly is a playland? It is a place. A magical place. A place that may only exist on the outskirts of your imagination. Yes, it’s a place that lives in the boondocks of your mind, or even the ghetto of your conciousness. It is a place that sees no wrong in marrying a third cousin. It is a special place with beautiful trees and an idyllic pond. It is a hamlet of amusement; the chance of a lifetime. It has rides that spin and swerve and drop and paddleboats and miniature golf. Spectacular “divas” from the music community perform there. Icons such as “Michelle Williams” of Destiny’s Child. And “Natasha Beddingfield.” It has wonderful delectables, like funnel cakes and hot dogs and cotton candy and caramel apples and those nachos with the fake, melted cheese. It is a place you shouldn’t miss visiting; they might inbreed there.

We spent a few solid hours at the Rye Playland. The crowds weren’t bad at all. We managed to ride all the rides we wanted within an hour and a half. We partook of some of the food, and we rode the rides. As with any amusement park rides, some are more fun than others. In case you plan on exploring this fantasy sparkle dreamland, let me assess the rides and attractions for you.

As a side note, I am happy to say I was tall enough for all of the rides.

Superflight: minimum height – 50″. Straps you in the Superman position. Loops and sharp turns and a bird’s eye view of the rail below, as well as the parking lot. Lasts approximately 7 seconds.

Zombie Castle: just like “It’s A Small World”, except the soundtrack has puking sounds and voices telling you you won’t leave the place alive (as opposed to the sounds and voices in your head during “Small World”). The glowing red exit signs are scarier than the zombie displays. This ride is a dimension that bends time, so I have no clue how long it lasts.

Dragon Coaster: a rickety, wooden-track roller coaster. A few really good dips, a tunnel of darkness that I pretended was Space Mountain. I screamed “I (heart) Rye Playland!” when the ride was over. The photo of me on the ride showed me being clearly traumatized. Lasts about 15 seconds. Trauma does not respect time.

Crazy Mouse: Has a 6′ maximum height requirement. Not a fun ride, as it inflicts whiplash from all neck angles. Lasts WAY longer than it should.

Double Shot: a vertical ride, launches straight up 85 feet, then free-falls to dislodge your stomach. This happens twice, except your stomach is stuck up in your sinuses the second time. Lasts 4 seconds, then 4 more hurling seconds.

Sky Flyer: a pendulum ride. Swings higher and higher until the momentum carries you all the way around. For a frozen second before the cabin decides to tip over, you hang, suspended, upside down. Relax your arms and legs for the onlookers below to see dangling limbs. Lasts not long enough.

Log Flume: a “wet” ride. A fakeout dip with a little bit of a splash. A 3.7-foot ascent anticipating a big splash that drenches you. The soothing smell of chlorine. Lasts about 12 seconds.

Thunderbolt: a spinning ride, specifically designed as a dry cycle after unboarding the Log Flume. Loud, bass-heavy music plays as you hover, round and round, forward for a few orbits, then backward. Lasts 8 seconds on high heat.

Starship 2000: a rotating platform. Instead of the floor dropping as soon as terminal speed is reached, the pad you are leaning against raises. Your body flattens against the side of the ship, and when the ride stops, the operator peels you off like putty. I felt especially woozy after this ride. Lasts 10 seconds Earth-time; at the speed of light, where

 t=7 seconds. Approximately.

Mini Golf: the sign, if you glance quickly, looks like “Mini Self.” But don’t expect a miniature clone of yourself when you pay. 18 holes. Much more fun with the 5-stroke maximum. Watch out for the divets and the concrete bunkers. Watch out for kids trying to poach your turn.

If you first look at this wondrous place – the mystical Rye Playland – when you arrive and it turns you cranky, you won’t be cranky after spending a day here. You must overload your senses with junkfood and the rides that barely one-up the McDonald’s playland. You must act and think and laugh as a child. You must spin your head and twist your stomach to the verge of vomiting. If this is your approach, your fun is guaranteed.