Tracy Smith offers us a tempting sample of "LaBelle Cuisine" in this Sunday Profile:
If you didn't know better, you might never guess that Patti LaBelle has been on stage for more than 50 years . . . or that last May she turned 70.
"You don't look 70 at all!" said Smith.
"Thank you. And I don't know what it should feel like. I feel cool, you know? I feel really good!"
And she's trying to stay that way.
LaBelle has been known to bring her pots and pans with her on tour, and she's earned a reputation as the "godmother of soul (food)," cooking for herself and whomever else she's played with, like Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and the rest of the Rolling Stones.
What did she cook for them? "Brisket, short ribs, fresh fried corn off the cob, cabbage, rice and gravy, peach cobbler. It was good!"
And then there was her former piano player Elton John, who she says loved her food so much he'd take it home . . . and keep her Tupperware.
"And of course years later I asked for my Tupperware," LaBelle laughed. "At this point he could afford to buy me some more Tupperware, you know?"
"Did you get it back?" Smith asked.
No. But, she said, "he gave me a diamond ring, yeah. That was nice."
"That'll work!" Smith laughed.
She's spent years spreading the gospel of good eating through cookbooks, DVDs, and a line of condiments. But for her, things like her legendary Mac and Cheese are now all but forbidden.
Smith asked, "You clearly enjoy cooking; you love food. How much of a blow was it when you found out that you had diabetes?"
"Oh, it blew me away," LaBelle said. "You know, my mother died of diabetes, and my aunt and my uncle, they lost their sight. And I knew when the doctor told me that I was a diabetic that I was going to change instantly. And I did. Because I want to live."
These days, when LaBelle goes shopping in her native Philadelphia, she spends a lot of time in the veggie aisle and the fish counter.
And this is what the Grammy-winning, platinum-selling artist made for our lunch: fried fish and sauteed spinach, both heavy on the garlic.
The sound of sizzling seafood is music to LaBelle's ears.
"Do you sing while you're cooking?" asked Smith.
"Never. Nor do I sing in the shower."
Truth is, she was practically born singing.
Patricia Louise Holt was a church choir veteran who formed a girl group of her own in the late 1950s. She used her own name, until she met a record exec who liked what he heard . . . but not what he saw.
"He was loving the way I sounded," LaBelle said. "But he said, 'Ooh! She's kinda ugly.'"
His unlikely solution: to rename Patti LaBelle -- French for "the beautiful." With Nona Hendryx and Sara Dash, it was Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles -- later, just LaBelle.
They hit it big in 1975 with "Lady Marmalade."
To watch Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sara Dash perform "Lady Marmalde," click on the video player below.
"So we recorded the song," said LaBelle, "and after it was released and did some great things, I found out it was about a hooker. We didn't have a clue!"
"Voulez vouz couches avec moi?"
"I had no idea what it meant. It was just a hit."