Michelle Obama takes UN spouses on farm-to-table tour to promote healthy eating

By Jocelyn Noveck, AP
Friday, September 24, 2010

Michelle Obama hosts UN spouses at NY farm

POCANTICO HILLS, N.Y. — First lady Michelle Obama gave her healthy eating initiative a global showcase Friday when she hosted spouses of world leaders at a farm north of New York City, treating them to a seasonal lunch featuring bounty from the farm and the White House garden.

The spouses, who came from places as diverse as Cameroon, Mongolia, Swaziland and Latvia, toured the Stone Barns Center about 25 miles north of New York, which is both a farm and an educational center working on sustainable farming — a cause close to the first lady’s heart.

And it shares the premises with one of the most renowned restaurants in the New York area, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where the women lunched on sungold tomatoes from the White House Kitchen Garden, eggs harvested minutes earlier from the farm’s chickens, and chicken with eggplant and ratatouille — also from the White House garden.

Addressing the spouses, Mrs. Obama, wearing an appropriately floral-and foliage-themed print dress by designer Tracy Feith, emphasized the importance of children learning directly about the food they eat. Also participating in the day’s events were third-graders from two local schools, who helped prepare the lunch (and their own, too) by harvesting eggs and collecting herbs.

“Many kids may never learn that ketchup comes from a tomato and french fries from a potato,” Mrs. Obama said. “Because they’re disconnected from the food they eat.”

And speaking of tomatoes, the first lady related a story about how daughter Sasha had been a tomato-phobe — until she made her own tomato, mozzarella and pesto sandwich in a cooking class at school. “Do you know those hair tomatoes?” she asked her mother, referring to heirloom tomatoes, Mrs. Obama recounted. “Now THOSE are good tomatoes!”

Now, Mrs. Obama said, Sasha is a fan. “We can do that with our children,” she added.

Given the farm tour, many opted for comfortable shoes — Mrs. Obama wore silver ballet flats, for example — but a few guests showed up in stiletto heels, which made for an interesting trip along the dirt paths.

When the spouses arrived at the chicken coop, they joined children already there, who were placing eggs into small baskets and dutifully depositing their baskets with a farm staffer.

Next stop: the herb garden, where Mrs. Obama told the kids: “We’re counting on you for our lunch today!” Joining her in the garden was Hayrunnisa Gul, the Turkish first lady, among a few others.

The day’s meal was prepared by the restaurant’s top chef and co-owner, Dan Barber, as well as three White House chefs who flew up for the occasion: Cristeta Comerford, Bill Yosses and Sam Kass, who is active in the first lady’s anti-obesity initiative.

The spouses were serenaded by a string quartet from the Juilliard School in New York City as they ate.

And yes, there was an appropriately healthy dessert: Red jacket apricots, accompanied by “White House honey sorbet.”

The guests left the farm well fed but also not empty-handed: Mrs. Obama presented each one with a maplewood basket containing pickled, hand-picked goods from her Kitchen Garden; chamomile seeds, also from the garden; a clay tea canister; and a soy candle with a silver imprint of the White House on both sides.

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