Patti LaBelle and the McBride Sisters Talk Cookbooks, Cooking and Wine

The second book featured in the McBride Sisters Wine and Book Club was the 20th Anniversary Edition of Patti LaBelle’s cookbook, LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About.

To get in the spirit, I put Patti on my playlist and wondered why I hadn’t done so sooner. New Attitude, Stir It Up, On My Own, and, of course, Lady Marmalade reminded me of just a few of the reasons Ms. LaBelle is known as “The Godmother of Soul”. Plus, she is a phenomenal Gospel singer.

LaBelle Cuisine isn’t just any cookbook. It is quite personal, as Patti shared stories relating to many recipes involving her family, celebrities, musicians, and others. One of the funniest involves her potato salad, an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1996, and how everything went horribly wrong.

This book and wine event was slightly different in that the women sampled some of Patti’s signature dishes paired with four of Robin and Andrea McBride’s wines. They gathered at Patti’s beautiful home in Maryland, partaking in what looked to be a scrumptious meal. Many of the participants noted in the chat that they had either tried some of Patti’s recipes or were pairing them with McBride Sisters wines on their own. Here is a portion of this incredible evening.

Robin McBride: We are here with this icon who needs no introduction, the legend, Patti LaBelle, the Godmother of Soul. Thank you so much for having us here today. We are so honored that you have invited us into your home and kitchen to enjoy these wonderful recipes you’ve put together to pair with our wines.

Andrea McBride: Thank you so much for joining us! We’re so happy to be connected with women and anyone who loves to cook!

Patti LaBelle: And who love that wine!

AM: I think the best thing we can do is start with a toast.

RM: We start everything with a little bubbly, a little pop of wine. (laughter)

AM: I’m going to open the sparkling. (struggling a bit) I just put lotion on my hands!

RM: You got it? (laughter)

PLB: There are people here who can help you.

AM: I got it, I got it! Let me get this beautiful flute of Patti’s.

RM: Is there a story behind this glass?

PLB: It’s a 20-year-old glass. My friend, Norma Harris-Gordon, who used to do my hair, we got these together and we always toast. Only she has water. She doesn’t drink. Champagne is little intense with these glasses.

AM: What should we toast? Sisterhood? Black Girl Magic?

RM: To good food, to wine!

PLB: To love, to life. To everything good and to all of us who are doing okay after the pandemic, and those who we lost. We have to think about everything, and how much better we are going to be after it’s all over.

RM: We’re thankful to be here with you today.

All three women: Cheers!

RM: And to everyone out there joining us!

AM: What was the inspiration for this cookbook? And what is your creative process?

PLB: I’ve been blessed to have a mother and father who cooked very well. When I was 10, I couldn’t reach the stove, but I could reach the ketchup. So, from the frig I would go to the garage and make my hot sauce with black pepper and anything spicy that would go with the dinner that had been prepared. Meanwhile, I’m very quiet, shy, and homely. So, I stayed at home. Never went out. Never had any friends. And I watched them cook and that’s when I learned how to burn. Just by being homely. (laughter) For real!

AM: With your presence, you would never guess that!

PLB: I’m still kind of shy.

AM and RM: No!

PLB: Until I get on stage under the lights; they wake me up. But I’m a laid-back chick. Being so laid back with my friends, butterflies, and cats and dogs, I grew up learning to cook well. The dogs will give me the bark of approval. The dog would ruff, ruff (laughter) and I just always could cook. In my family now because Zuri (Patti’s daughter) cooks just like me. She follows my cookbooks and there’s 3-year-old Leyla. She thinks she’s a chef, she has a YouTube Channel. And she’ll say, (imitates a child’s voice) “Today, we’re having sushi.” (laughter) So, she’s a Patti LaBelle lady cook.These are easy, quick, reasonable meals. I’m just blessed and I’m still standing at 77 cookin’ my soul out. And you guys cook too!

AM and RM: Yes, we do!

RM: When you were a 10-year-old little girl what was your interest? We’re you like, I’m gonna come up with these creations, and share it with my family or were you more like I’m going to make my own version of a recipe that I’ve seen some of my family or friends make?

PLB: I would do my version of their great meals. I would enhance it with extra little spices. If it was a sweet item, I would put extra sugar in, back in the day when I could use sugar. I’m a diabetic, so I have to leave that in moderation. I would make everything so perfect. I mean I really can pat myself on the back.

RM: It was a gift.

PLB: Yes, I was blessed with the gift of cooking, that’s my thing. But I sing too. I would put them on a scale and the singing would outdo the cooking. I love that more. It’s in my genes, boo.

RM: What was it like when you were 10 and you were experimenting in the kitchen, the dog thought it was good, and then you’d serve it to your family.

PLB: They were impressed, because nobody would think I could cook at that young age as well as I did. I had a lot to learn from them. My aunts, of course Hattie Mae and Joshia Mae.

RM and AM: We have an Aunt Annie Mae! (laughter)

PLB: I learned a lot from my aunts. They lived in Albany, Georgia at the time, before they passed. I would go and visit them for the summer and stay there. And watch them kill that chicken and I’d say, “Ohhh, I can’t eat that!” (laughter) They had to kill their food! And I had to watch them do it – country living. And I learned to cook a lot down there – the grits and watching them make every kind of dessert or every kind of dinner. We all joined in as a family to eat, and that’s what things are about now. Having a good life and my brand. To bring people together at dinnertime. If you don’t feel like cookin’ you can go to a store and get whatever you want for dinner or the desserts. A lot of times people don’t want to make the sweet potato pie. So, you’ll go to whatever store it’s in like Walmart and purchase your dessert. And when people come, you can say, I made that. They don’t have to know it’s from Patti’s line.

RM: Everybody has the right to do that!

AM: Can I put in a little plug? Black Girl Magic Riesling and Patti’s sweet potato pie is an entire mood setter.

RM: It’s an amazing pairing.

With each dish, the recipe and wine pairings are discussed, Patti offered little tips and tricks. They all looked mouth-watering on the video.

RM: I have one quick question I have to ask because we know how passing down recipes tends to go in families. A lot of times a family member … may have a famous recipe that everybody loves. But when they pass down that recipe and share it, it might be missing one key ingredient that makes it not quite as good as theirs. My question for you is, in your cookbook are these your actual recipes, or did you hold out a little bit.

PLB: The truth is I’ve never left anything out. Every recipe is mine. With this cookbook, if you follow it, it will taste exactly like it should.

RM: So just like yours.

PLB: All the ingredients are in your face.

RM: I feel like people want to know the answer to that question!

AM: It happens a lot! (laughter)

PLB: I love for it to be the same as I make.

The women began the pairings with the McBride Sisters Sparkling Brute and hush puppies, which Patti says are so simple and explains how to make them.

At the end of the evening there was a Q&A section. To my delight and surprise, the question I submitted was the first one to be asked.

RM: Kathryn has asked: Ms. Patti, as an artist, do you find that you channel the same creative vibe that inspires your music as a part of your cooking as well?

PLB: They’re both the same. They’re both at the top of my being. When I cook and when I sing it’s all or nothing. So, I guess, they’re on the same line. Keep those questions coming!

I plan to try some of Patti’s recipes and expand my somewhat limited culinary skills. It was fantastic event, and I can’t wait the next selection in the McBride Sisters Wine and Book Club!

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