"Hi, I'm back!"
Paula Deen wooed a Houston crowd Saturday during her first appearance since the revelation that she used a racial slur in the past, according to CNN affiliate KPRC.
The Southern food diva looked straight into the lens of a camera, waved, smiled and winked as a sold-out audience of 1,500 cheered her on during a cooking demonstration at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertainment Show.
After a standing ovation, Deen wiped the tears on her face and told the crowd, "These are tears of joy, y'all. I've said all along that the one place I'd want to make my first step back out was Texas."
A federal judge has dismissed the racial discrimination claims in a lawsuit filed by a former employee against Paula Deen, the celebrity chef's representative said Monday. Some other aspects of the lawsuit are still pending.
"We are pleased with the Court's ruling today that Lisa Jackson's claims of race discrimination have been dismissed," Deen's representatives said in a statement to CNN. "As Ms. Deen has stated before, she is confident that those who truly know how she lives her life know that she believes in equal opportunity, kindness and fairness for everyone."
Some die-hard fans are getting all wrapped up in a campaign to defend Paula Deen.
They're sending cleaned and origami-folded butter wrappers to Food Network and other companies that dropped the popular chef and cookbook author in the wake of allegations of racism and sexual harassment. Deen later admitted to "of course" using the n-word. The wrappers are intended as signs of protest - physical declarations of "we're sticking with Paula."
FBI agents on Friday morning arrested a 62-year-old man who, they say, tried to extort Paula Deen by threatening to divulge "true and damning" information about the embattled celebrity chef - unless he was paid to keep quiet.
Thomas George Paculis was taken into custody without incident in Ithaca, New York, by FBI agents and deputies from the Tompkins County Sheriff's Office, the FBI said in a press release.
There was no answer later Friday to a phone number linked to him in the FBI's criminal complaint, nor was there an immediate response from an e-mail address in that same document.
As Paula Deen's home-goods empire unravels, companies making or distributing her products - everything from pots and pans to dishes and scented candles - may be left with a messy situation of their own.
Several large stores, including the world's largest retailer Wal-Mart, announced last week that they would stop selling Paula Deen products. Target, Home Depot, Sears, J.C. Penney and QVC also said they would discontinue her merchandise.
Good things happen when people gather together around a dinner table - and recent news has given us an awful lot to chew on.
Race has been front and center in the headlines recently. Businesses distanced themselves from celebrity chef Paula Deen after she admitted to using racially charged language. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on affirmative action and gutted the Voting Rights Act with the admonition to Congress that "things in the South have changed." The Senate passed historic immigration legislation. And the testimony of Rachel Jeantel in the George Zimmerman trial was filled with controversy.
Eatocracy's managing editor Kat Kinsman and Alicia Stewart, who covers issues of identity for CNN, invited a few expert guests to offer insight into some controversy that has arisen around issues of race, identity, food and redemption, and invited commenters to weigh in.
Former President Jimmy Carter said embattled celebrity chef Paula Deen should be forgiven, arguing that while there's no condoning the racial slurs she uttered, the well-known personality has been candid and apologetic.
"She was maybe excessively honest in saying that she had in the past, 30 years ago, used this terrible word," Carter told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux in an interview Friday. "I think she has been punished, perhaps overly severely, for her honesty in admitting it and for the use of the word in the distant past. She's apologized profusely."
Deen's troubles began about two weeks ago when a deposition in a discrimination lawsuit was released in which she admitted using the n-word in the past. Deen has insisted she does not tolerate prejudice, but her apologies have failed to suppress the controversy.
On the heels of news that Paula Deen's upcoming cookbook had become a best seller on Amazon.com, Deen's publisher - Ballantine Books - has announced it will not publish the book.
The book, titled "Paula Deen's New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up," was set to release in October 2013.
Random House spokesperson Stuart Applebaum told CNN in a statement:
"After careful consideration, Ballantine Books has made the difficult decision to cancel the publication of ‘Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes All Lightened Up.'"
No matter how you slice it, Southern food is complicated. Some detractors dismiss the whole menu as an over-larded, gravy-drenched, carbed-up monolith; they clearly just haven’t been invited to the right homes for supper.
At its core, Southern food is one of the most multilayered, globally-influenced and constantly evolving cuisines on the planet. It’s inextricably and equally tied to the rhythms of the seasons and the lives of the people who cook it the way their grandmother did, and her grandmother before her, and so on.
No one cooks Southern food alone; there’s always a ghost in the corner giving guidance. For millions of people, that’s Paula Deen, a celebrity chef whose sugary, bubbly bonhomie has earned her the moniker “Queen of Southern Cooking” - as well as her share of critics.