Celebrity chef and noted Southern comfort, Paula Deen, sustained a blow to the head from a frozen ham thrown by a volunteer while helping to offload food destined for Savannah charities. While she appeared to shake off the injury and hobbled to the sideline under her own power, reports later indicated that Deen was experiencing headaches and has since been diagnosed with a concussion. Her agent, Barry Weiner, said that, as a result of her injury, she will not play in Thursday's Thanksgiving dinner.
"She was visibly rattled from the hit," said Weiner. "At no time, however, did she lose consciousness. And, contrary to published reports from less than reliable sources, did Paula ever have hallucinations that Gen. Sherman was on his way to raze Savannah and that they all needed to 'skedaddle.' Those scurrilous reports are patently absurd."
Celebrity gossip website, TMZ, declined comment after posting the Sherman story, but said they would stand by their sources.
Officials from the Food Network are reviewing videotape from the incident to determine if any fines or suspensions will result. "On the surface," said an unidentified foodie, "it seems that Deen successfully completed her pass to a receiver at the end of the line for a score. Following the completion, however, an interior lineman threw the ham back at Deen. At the very least, the lineman in question should have been penalized for excessive celebration, perhaps even a personal foul for unnecessary roughness, but no flag was thrown."
Food Network commentator, Bobby Flay, noted, "We've all seen Paula take hits like that before. I was in the kitchen with her back in 2001 when she was blindsided by that standing rib roast. That was a helluva hit. I still don't know how she got up after that one. She was always kind of the poster child for cooking hurt, though. You'd think the banged-up knees or the separated shoulder wouldn't let her stand at the stove the whole time, but she hung in there until the meal was over. She's a warrior; a true champion."
Deen's son, Jamie, said that the decision was made to err on the side of caution and hold her out of Thursday's dinner. "We talked to several doctors and decided that this was best for Paula and the team. We've got a lot of big dinners coming up with the holiday season and all and we're not going to take a chance with Paula's health."
"Paula, you know, being the competitor that she is, wanted to give it a shot, make it a game-time decision, but we felt, in the interest of the team, that she should sit this one out and live to cook another day, so to speak. We are going to start my brother, Bobby, in Paula's absence tomorrow. Next week, we'll have Paula to do some light cooking at our restaurant, The Lady and Sons, and we'll evaluate her performance there."
Quipped fellow celebrity chef, Rachael Ray, "I guess trichinosis isn't the only way an undercooked ham can hurt you....."