This past Tuesday Paula Deen announced to Al Roker that she has been living with type 2 diabetes for about three years and that she and her family will become spokespeople for Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals' diabetes medication, providing healthy recipes and eating tips on the pharma's website.
I interviewed Deen late yesterday, and asked about the decadent recipes she's known for. Her response: "I've never recommended that people go into their kitchen and prepare and eat these fattening dishes every day. But when you have a special occasion....
"Look, today knowing what I know, coming with my announcement, when I pick up the phone to my kids and say mommy's cooking y'all come over, they'll be the first ones here to put their feet under my table because they love momma's traditional southern cooking. But it might not be but once every two months that I cook like that, not every day."
She's no sugar fanatic, except for one vice long gone...southern sweet tea. Deen admits to adding two full cups of sugar to every gallon of tea that she made, drinking the sweet elixir from lunchtime to bedtime. After her diagnosis, the tea was the first thing to go.Looking back, she's shocked at how much sugar she consumed just from her innocent-seeming little beverage.
"It's staggering how many grams of sugar I would put in a glass of sweet tea. It's outrageous.I would consume a cup and a half of sugar a day in empty calories. That was crazy," she admits.
Deen has learned to like unsweetened iced tea with a little lemon and sugar substitute.
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Deen is as charming on the phone as she is on camera. Over the better part of an hour, we spoke about her Deen Family Cruise, which departs The Port of Miami this weekend, ("We're gonna have a ball. We play games while we're at sea and it will be a lot of good clean fellowship fun. I can't wait to hit the casino."), ghosts (Deen doesn't believe in them, but loves to watch ghost hunting shows on television and enjoys taking a ghost tour or two in her home town of Savannah, reputed to be one of the most haunted cities in the United States), and her go-to items in the kitchen (cornmeal, flour, milk, butter, and eggs ... but not sugar).
Right before we wrapped up the conversation, she told me that she had met a mother and daughter that were on the Costa Concordia at Today. With her imminent cruise in mind, she asked them if they would ever cruise again. They said no. Deen told me that she gets nervous when she has to get on an airplane or a ship after something tragic happens, but she remembers something that helped her through her recovery from agoraphobia some decades ago.
"Something that has played the biggest part in my day to day life is the serenity prayer. To me, every day that we get up we have to keep that prayer close to our heart, and have the courage to accept the things that we can't change and the courage to change the things that we can ... or else we'll go batty."