Marietta cousin defends television's Paula Deen
by Leo Hohmann
June 24, 2013 12:28 AM | 12326 views | 28 28 comments | 96 96 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Paula Deen made a stop at the Cracker Barrel on Delk Road in Marietta in October of 2011 to sign copies of her new cookbook ‘Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible.’ With her is her husband Michael Groover.<br>Staff/file
Paula Deen made a stop at the Cracker Barrel on Delk Road in Marietta in October of 2011 to sign copies of her new cookbook ‘Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible.’ With her is her husband Michael Groover.
Staff/file
slideshow
Johnnie Gabriel of Marietta, center, has this picture posted on her website of her posing with Paula Deen, right, and country music singer Trisha Yearwood, who also has authored several best-selling cookbooks.<br>Special to the MDJ
Johnnie Gabriel of Marietta, center, has this picture posted on her website of her posing with Paula Deen, right, and country music singer Trisha Yearwood, who also has authored several best-selling cookbooks.
Special to the MDJ
slideshow

The news that TV food celebrity Paula Deen had come under public criticism for admitting she used a racial slur years ago caused her Marietta cousin and fellow restaurateur deep concern Friday.

Johnnie Gabriel, owner of Gabriel’s Desserts on Whitlock Avenue, said she grew up with Deen as a child, seeing her often on summertime trips to her grandmother’s house near Albany.

“My grandmother and her grandfather were brother and sister,” Gabriel said.

The two reconnected in 2000 and have remained close since, with Gabriel appearing twice on Deen’s TV show on the Food Network and Deen writing the forwards to the two cookbooks authored by Gabriel.

“We knew each other as young children and through our high school years, and reconnected in 2000 at my aunt’s 90th birthday, who at that time was the matriarch of our family,” Gabriel said. “Paula is a very honest and giving person.”

Gabriel, who is two years older than her famous cousin, has appeared on Deen’s Thanksgiving TV special a few years ago in which family members got together over their favorite holiday foods.

But using a racial slur would have been out of character for Deen, according to Gabriel.

“I find that surprising because I’ve been to Savannah and see how her employees admire and appreciate her and I see how hard she works,” Gabriel said. “We both started a business, our families were blue collar people, and I know from what I’ve seen exhibited in her character that she is very caring about the people around her. I’ve seen her meet people, seen her meet strangers, and always she is very caring and receptive.” Gabriel said she last saw Deen in Washington, D.C., in May at a luncheon put on by the Congressional Women’s Club in honor of first lady Michelle Obama.

“She was very well received there,” Gabriel said. “Billie Gingrey, the wife of our Congressman Phil Gingrey, was the chairperson this year and she included Georgia people and Georgia business owners. It was a fun affair.”

Gabriel, when contacted Friday evening, had not yet heard that the Food Network had canceled its contract with Deen earlier in the day.

“I find that very surprising,” Gabriel said. “I’ve been around Paula a lot of times when she could let her hair down and I’ve never heard her say anything derogatory about anyone. She surrounds herself with a lot of different people in Savannah, and I would be uncomfortable if I had ever heard or seen that type of thing. I’ve never been uncomfortable around her. I’ve seen her be very kind and gracious around all people who want to meet her.”

Gabriel, with her husband, Ed, started their own business in Marietta in 1990.

“I started baking out of my house to make a little extra money to keep my daughter at UGA. I was going to pay her rent by baking cakes,” Gabriel recalls.

That little enterprise with the humble goals expanded into a separate building in 1996 and then moved into the even larger current building on Whitlock in 2007.

“That’s when we became a real restaurant,” Gabriel said. They serve Southern specialties like roasted chicken, creamed corn and fried okra alongside roasted vegetables and red-velvet cupcakes while continuing to offer a full line of wedding and birthday cakes and decadent desserts.

“God has been very gracious and good and this community has been very gracious and good and very receptive to Gabriel’s,” she said.

The restaurant’s website touts Gabriel’s relationship with her Savannah cousin and media sensation Paula Deen. And Deen has been more than just a token supporter of Gabriel’s business.

“When she’s in town, she always mentions us. If I have a question and call her, she’s always very good to give me her opinion,” Gabriel said. “I think she’s been to the new store once, a couple years after we opened. She did a book signing at Cracker Barrel and after that she dropped by our store and wanted to see how things were going.”

Now, with her contract not up for renewal, Deen’s future is less certain.

But Gabriel believes she will land on her feet.

“She certainly has the following and talent to do so and the caring for other people to make good things happen,” Gabriel said. “It’s a very unfortunate situation because people do love her. She knows as well as I do that we are all brothers and sisters on this earth. And I think she would acknowledge that in a heartbeat.”





Do you think Paula Deen should have been fired for her statements?


Comments
(28)
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Stanford B Myers
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June 26, 2013
The thing that got Paula Deen in deep water was not saying that she had used the N-Word before, but she capped it off with, of course. It was like saying, what's wrong with that or that nothing is wrong with it.
Old timer
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June 25, 2013
My question....a reporter said today the incident was 20 years ago, while she was a teller in a bank. She had been robbed at gun point. 20 years, if that's true is a very long time. And just becomes someone sues....does not make the accusation true, by any means.
Lib in Cobb
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June 25, 2013
Old Timer: I believe we will see more people come forward with similar stories as the person suing Deen.
Lib in Cobb
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June 25, 2013
@Bless: No one has suggested that the use of racist terms is ok by anyone. If the sponsors of rappers elect to keep their stars on the payroll that is their decision.
anonymous
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June 25, 2013
@Lib in Cobb. I know it is hard for you to look at the other side of the glass, but I am asking you to. You don't have to tell me about discrimination. I have faced it. Years ago, I worked for a major company and there was a man that was not very good at his job. Most of his job responsibilities were shifted over to me, a woman. I did not receive an increase in pay. By the way, the man whom I assumed the job responsibilities from made considerably more money than me. My boss went to the higher ups and pleaded my case that since I had assumed the majority of job responsibilities from another position that paid much higher than mine, I should be give a hefty pay increase. I was denied with the reason that "the man has a family to support and that is why he made so much more money." Well, I was divorced with two children, but the answer to that one was that, "I was young and attractive and would remarry soon." And that was a perfectly legal response at the time.

By the way, Lib, I am white and Southern and my favorite era is what I call the "Gone With The Wind" era...fine plantation homes, wraparound porches, hoop dresses, cold lemonade, homes in Madison and a few near the Marietta Square. I am not racist. And neither is Paula Deen. My family did not own slaves, but where my Grandmother lived and my Mother was raised, we were called "Miss (first name)" and "Mr. (first name)" by the local black people. We didn't ask anyone to do this--my family owned a sawmill and were respected for the jobs they provided, the care they showed, etc. and that was the times then.

All has changed with the times, but you still can't take away from me my love for the plantation lifestyle, even though I live in a small house in Marietta. It has nothing to do with racism. It has all to do with the ways things were and all was not bad. Just as we don't live like Little House on the Prarie anymore, that old South is gone. However, to recreate a wedding in that era--there is absolutely nothing with that. You can't change history.

Long after my family's business was gone and I was living in metro Atlanta, I worked in the office of a company that had a warehouse. One of the warehouse workers asked me where I was from and when I told him, he asked me did I know Mr. So-and-So (using first name). Well, it was my Uncle he was asking about. His eyes teared up and he told me he worked for Mr. So-and-So at the sawmill and how my family had provided for his children. He was black and didn't have an ounce of resentment or hostility--only love for the love my family showed him and his family so many years ago.

I am sure for many years after the end of the war between Indians and white people, there were hostilities for a long time. So will there be for maybe another generation until blacks and whites will live in unity without resentment. But you still can't change history. And you still can't change my love for the era Paula Deen was trying to express. And, I repeat, all was not bad.
Lib in Cobb
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June 25, 2013
@anonymous: It's not right now, nor was it right when you were denied a raise by your employer. Our president has attempted to right these wrongs of the past. Speaking of the past, "the plantation lifestyle" included enslavement of people because their skin was black. If you wish to recall only the good about the plantation era, then you are sticking your head in the sand.

It was not until 100 years after the Civil War and the slaves were freed, that people of color were given full rights as American citizens. There is more to southern history than hoop dresses, wrap around porches and cold lemonade.

Paula Deen is being sued for presiding over a business where racial and sexual harassment was the norm. She is being billed as a racist for comments she made, it doesn't matter when those comments were made and it doesn't matter that at one time racist terms were the norm.
Go straight
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June 30, 2013
You are so right.
Lib in Cobb NOT
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June 24, 2013
Lib in Cobb.... You are living in your own little world. There are plenty of black, male Christians out there that have it easy growing up. A person can chose to live a better life and let what happened in the past go. We can't change what happened in our past but we sure can move forward. You have no idea how Paula Deen used the word - you weren't there. Could've have been taken completely out of context or could've been used racially who knows... however she has apologized for it so move on. It was in her past!
Lib in Cobb
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June 24, 2013
Paula has never "moved on" from what she was taught growing up in south GA. Deen missed any sort of enlightenment. This is more than Deen using racial slurs, this is about a workplace environment which included racial and sexual harassment.

anonymous
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June 24, 2013
Does anyone want to go with us by bus to Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons protest outside the rap studios where they degrade women and use the N word. Im not sure sure when we will be loading up to show our support but I will keep you posted.
Pam J
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June 24, 2013
I've seen a couple of interviews and read a couple of interviews with Paula Deen, and I'm more upset with the reporters. Just because she is an older southern woman, I think everybody assumes she's racist. So they introduce the subject and keep pushing until she has to say something.
Lib in Cobb
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June 24, 2013
Pam: It's not about her being an older woman. It's about her being an obvious racist, using racially charged expressions, condoning and permitting a racially hostile environment in her restaurant.

Evolution and enlightenment has passed her by.
anonymous
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June 24, 2013
According to what Ms. Gabriel says her grandmother was sister to Paula's grandfather.

That makes them 2nd cousins. Most 2nd cousins don't even know each other. I have 1 second cousin that showed up to my mom's funeral but we wouldn't have known each other, no reason too. I think Paula is taking the brunt for her brother in this ugly lawsuit. He started the sexual and ugly intimidation at his restaurant where Paula was giving him his start & she was dragged into this, in an effort by opposing lawyers.
StopbeingsoNaive
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June 22, 2013
Save it Gabriel. Paula has admitted to saying that she has used it. Lesson of the day, if you don't have anything nice to say, just don't say the "N" word. Im sure she wont go broke. The food network did the right thing
Just Wait
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June 22, 2013
Paula Deen is a 66 year old southern white woman. Using the "n-word" was standard and accepted when she was raised up in south Georgia. The question is does she still use that word today. If not, think of all the things all of us would be in trouble for from our past.
Lib in Cobb
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June 24, 2013
@ Just Wait: No matter where or when Deen was raised, no matter if it was the cultural norm does not make it right.

Deen is being sued for presiding over a workplace environment which was racially hostile.

It was also reported that Deen referred to one of her African American workers as "my little monkey".

The Food Network was more than justified in firing her.
Just Wait
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June 24, 2013
@ Lib in Cobb...I guess your right. She should have ignored her upbringing and simply lied in deposition and said "NO" I have never and would never use such a word. Easier to go with a lie than the truth.
Bless Yalls Heart
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June 24, 2013
@ Lib In Cobb -

As long as that word appears in music, videos, movies, etc...that sadly is part of the cultural norm.

No, it's not right, but why is it okay for 1 person to say it, but not another? A inappropriate word, is a inappropriate word - no matter the context it is used.
suspicious
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June 22, 2013
Think it really rather strange that they were so quick to fire Paula Deen. However, since I like Paula better than I like Food Network, think I will just fire Food Network and not only quit watching but contact some of the sponsors. For the most part, its boring, anyway.
Lib in Cobb
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June 22, 2013
Deen wanted to throw a plantation style wedding. Does that mean Rhett and Miss Scarlet costumes, perhaps. It was also learned that she would wanted to have only middle aged black men as waiters, her words "slaves". OK, now we know the nature of Deen's core values.

Very appropriate decision by The Food Network.
Watcher...
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June 24, 2013
Lib in Cobb,

I wonder if anyone has ever referred to you or a Family member as a "Cracker" or "Honkey?"

How would you appreciate that use of the language?
Lib in Cobb:
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June 26, 2013
@watcher: Being called a "cracker" would be inaccurate, I am not from the south. "Honkey" also incorrect. Would I like it, I suppose not, but I don't own a restaurant where an atmosphere of sexual and racial intimidation was allowed to be part of the every day norm.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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June 22, 2013
Oh, please! On a daily basis, I am subjected to the worst possible, and often racist, vulgar language thrown around by blacks! Speaking only for myself, I've had about a gut full of this social pandering to a race that expects so much from others and gives so little in return. Enough!
Lib in Cobb
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June 24, 2013
@ May-Retta: I was once told by a very wise person, "It's very easy growing up in this country as long you are white, male and Christian".

Obviously you have not personally experienced any direct hostility, due to your race, gender or religion.
When and where?
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June 24, 2013
Please tell us more cause I don't believe a thing you say MAY-Retta.
Come on now
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June 24, 2013
Hate begets hate, and you get what you give. I say this to both sides, though it appears only one seems to feel entitled having been, put down as it was implied.

I have in fact heard slurs used by those who claim to dislike them so, all groups have them and all groups oddly use them on themselves. If a word is bad, then its bad for all, no exceptions, no excuses, no privileges.

Teach your kids proper - no man or woman has a right to speak such things, and in a few generations maybe all this type of words hurt more than sticks and stones can be a memory to reflect on, not to attack one another with.

Otherwise maybe we all need to thicken our skins, and realize words will never hurt more than you allow, in almost all occasions.
anonymous
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June 22, 2013
Paula is laughing all the way to the bank. At mid-60s, Paula already has more money than her grandchildren's grandchildren's grandchildren will ever need if she never again past today sells another book or TV show. Five or more generations can live off the interest alone from her estate without ever lifting a finger. Her own two children are extremely successful and wealthy in their own right and don't need a dime from an inheritance from Paula anyway. So, go after her and try to bring her down. You won't. The last laugh is from Paula who is the victim of a witch hunt. Go now, Paula, off into the sunset with your devoted husband on the huge yacht you already own out of the public eye. Maybe this is a staged retirement anyway. All I can say is enjoy, Paula, enjoy, your good fortune.
Lib in Cobb
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June 24, 2013
@anonymous: There is more to this than money. What you have missed, as has so many others, Deen's restaurant in Savannah, had a workplace environment of racism and sexual harassment. There is more to this story than Deen being fired for the use of racist terms.

Deen will lose in the current lawsuit, she will a hefty fine and compensation to the plantiff. Then the additional suits will start.

No company, employer or sponsor wants to be associated with any kind of racial or sexual controversy. Example, Fuzzy Zoeller lost his sponsors due to his ignorant comments. Tiger Woods lost nearly all of his sponsors money due to his behavior.

Fox will give her a cooking show, they don't care who they hire.
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