Paula Deen shrugs off critics, says food will be lighter

RIDGEWOOD, NJ - OCTOBER 12: Paula Deen promotes the new book "Paula's Southern Cooking Bible" at Bookends Bookstore on October 12, 2011 in Ridgewood, New Jersey. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
Dave Kotinsky
Paula Deen promotes her book "Paula's Southern Cooking Bible" at Bookends Bookstore on Oct. 12, 2011, in Ridgewood, N.J.
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) When Paula Deen announced last month that she had type 2 diabetes, she was slammed by chefs, doctors, and fans for keeping her diagnosis a secret for three years while she still promoted unhealthy eating on television.

One month later, what does the 65-year-old Queen of Southern Cuisine have to say?

"I think a few people who have access to a TV camera and ink kind of wanted to hate on me for coming down with something," Deen said. "But I so don't worry about it."

Besides shrugging off her critics, Deen told the Associated Press in an interview during the South Beach Wine and Food Festival on Friday that she's ready to show a lighter side to her notoriously fatty Southern-style cooking. But don't expect her to abandon her roots.

"I am who I am. But what I will be doing is offering up lighter versions of my recipes," the longtime Food Network star said. "But you know, I'm Southern by roots. I was taught (to cook) by my grandmother and nothing I can do would change that."

Nearly 26 million Americans are believed to have diabetes,according to the American Diabetes Association, a number that includes 7 million people who probably don't realize they have the disease. The condition is blamed in part on obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, which fueled criticism of her Deen's announcement.

"When your signature dish is hamburger in between a doughnut, and you've been cheerfully selling this stuff knowing all along that you've got Type 2 diabetes ... it's in bad taste if nothing else," celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain said at the time.

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During those years, she continued to promote her fatty fare on television and in books and magazines, and to profit from lucrative endorsement deals with companies such as Smithfield ham and Philadelphia Cream Cheese. But the fact that her revelation was triggered by her simultaneous announcement that she also would be a paid spokesperson for drug maker Novo Nordisk's Victoza, prompted many to wonder why she appeared to wait until she had a paying endorsement before revealing her diagnosis.

"Yes, I am being compensated," she said Friday. "It's the way of the world. It's the American way. But I am taking a portion of that compensation and giving it back to the (American) Diabetes Association."

Deen would not say how much she is being paid or what portion would be donated. And she dismissed the idea that she should have announced her diagnosis sooner.

"It took me 20 years to come out and stand up and say, 'Hey, my name's Paula and I'm agoraphobic,'" she said. "I was so ashamed, so embarrassed. So to do it in two-and-a-half years, I thought it was pretty good."

It appears Deen has softened her stance on changing her recipes. Following her announcement last month, Deen said she wasn't planning to change her approach to cooking, saying people should practice moderation.

But Friday, she said when she begins shooting new episodes of her show this spring, the recipes will offer something for everyone, including people who want healthier recipes. But viewers might not see a difference for awhile. Because filming and production schedules are set well in advance, it could take up to two years before those episodes are aired.

What do you think about the Paula Deen-diabetes controversy?