First Lady describes wooing her husband with Gumbo, food rules for her daughters, and changes in America's schools thanks to her national initiative...
First Lady Michelle Obama has done numerous interviews with Rachael Ray. But on Monday Mrs. Obama made her in-studio debut on the chat queen's New York set for the show's season seven premiere for a special 'back to school' appearance to promote the Let's Move! campaign. During her half-hour on the hour-long show, Mrs. Obama did a little cooking, a little working out, and discussed family life at the White House. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a very special casting pool for Ray: Second Lady Jill Biden and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass have appeared on Ray's show, too.
Clad in a graphic black and white print top with a wide black belt and bright orange pants, Mrs. Obama entered to an ovation from the audience, then watched Ray demonstrate her own recipe for a broccoli and a cheddar turkey burger. Ray said it was thanks to the fact that the first time she met candidate Barack Obama and his wife on the 2008 campaign trail "you guys were eating cheese burgers." They also demonstrated Ray's avocado and ranch dressing, with Mrs. Obama dumping the ingredients into a blender.
Mrs. Obama discussed USDA's new healthy school lunch standards; Ray joined her last January at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, VA, as she visited to unveil the new standards.
"Kids are getting all kinds of healthier foods" starting this Fall, Mrs. Obama said.
She also described wooing the young Barack Obama with a Gumbo made from her mom's recipe.
"I was so ambitious. I made Gumbo. I was really trying to impress him,” Mrs. Obama said. “I got my mom’s recipe for gumbo, and I bought all the stuff, and it turned out really well, I think."
"He thought he was going to eat like that all the time,” Mrs. Obama said, to laughter.
Mrs. Obama went on a second date with Mr. Obama based on "how sweet he was," she told Ray. Their first date, about which most of America knows the details, was "magical," she said.
Mrs. Obama announced that she prefers iced tea over iced coffee, and prefers savory foods over sweet.
"Give me something salty," Mrs. Obama said. She prefers cookouts to pot luck: "Give me grilled anything and I'll eat it."
The First Lady also told Ray that she didn't like liver and lima beans as a girl, and detailed her mealtime rules for daughters Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11.
"They have to eat what's on their plate," Mrs. Obama said. "I always say if you're not hungry, finish your vegetables, and then don't come back for dessert. That usually gets them to finish everything."
"That's a great motivator!" Ray said.
Mrs. Obama praised Ray for joining the Chefs Move to Schools project, a Let's Move! component that marries professional chefs with public schools to boost nutrition initiatives. Ray has no children, but said she works with schools because it's "everyone's responsibility." Mrs. Obama smiled and nodded as Ray echoed the Let's Move! campaign's rhetoric about school gardens and the importance of salad bars. Students creating their own plates of veggies from school salad bars "boosts self esteem" for kids, Ray said.
Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools is a drive to get 6,000 child-sized salad bars into public schools by 2013. Launched in 2010, the project has placed 1,440 salad bars to date.
Mrs. Obama has done all kinds of calisthenics on national TV, and got Ray down on a mat for a curl-up battle after she described the updated school-based Presidential Youth Fitness Program. The old program "pitted kids against each other," Mrs. Obama said, and discouraged kids. But the new one measures individual achievement and improvement in order to inspire kids to be active.
The First Lady did ten curl ups, as did Ray. Then they ran back and forth between orange cones for a test called "the pacer," which replaces the old challenge's mile run. Ray tottered through the test in high-helled sneakers; Mrs. Obama wore nude heeled pumps.
Mrs. Obama this year has appeared on talk shows with David Letterman, Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Fallon, Dr. Oz, Nate Berkus and more, as well as on the covers of national magazines. Last week, she was in US magazine, with a two-page spread titled "25 things you don't know about me." Still, Mrs. Obama maintains that she's not famous and lives a 'normal' life.
“I don’t consider us famous,” Mrs. Obama said. “Things at the White House are surprisingly the same for us as a family. I talk to the girls about this, because I told them this experience should remind them that home is wherever we are, whether it’s on the South Side of Chicago or in the White House. It’s us.”
The fitness segment ended Mrs. Obama's appearance on the show, which was filmed on August 29th. But Ray continued the Let's Move! promotion. In August, Mrs. Obama hosted the first-ever Kids' State Dinner at the White House, a luncheon honoring 54 junior chefs who won a healthy lunch recipe contest. Sam Wohabe, age 9, the New York winner of the contest, joined Ray on the show after Mrs. Obama left, to taste-test Ray's cheddar burger. Of course he gave it the thumbs up.
In May, Ray joined the First Lady at the White House to film a garden-side BBQ as part of the TV junket celebrating the publication of American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America. Ray also interviewed Mrs. Obama last January, after joining her at Parklawn to unveil USDA's nutrition standards. Ray stars in a White House video promoting the Let's Move! campaign, filmed during a 2010 harvest of Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden.
Watch video clips of Mrs. Obama's appearance here.
*Photos courtesy of Rachael Ray Show