Rebecca Sharpless, an associate professor of history at Texas Christian University, is the author of “Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South, 1865-1960.”FORT WORTH — DORA CHARLES and Idella Parker, two black Southern cooks, were born nearly a half century apart and likely never met. But if they did, they would be soul sisters.Ms. Parker, born in 1914, would understand Ms. Charles’s story of cooking for Paula Deen, whose downfall over charges of racism got a little steeper last week, when Ms. Charles detailed her own fraught history with the celebrity chef. She would understand the fabulous food drenched in butter and sugar, the 15-hour days on tired feet, the wages insufficient to pay for health care. She would understand the famous boss with romantic notions of the South and its cuisine.
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