Photo Credit: Kelly Wallace
It would be hard to top a small, intimate roundtable with First Lady Michelle Obama that I was invited to on Monday on behalf of iVillage. But a private and personal tour of the White House Kitchen Garden by White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass -- yes, one of People's 100 Most Beautiful People -- runs a pretty close second.
After talking with the First Lady about motherhood and raising her girls in the White House bubble and after a reception for healthy schools as part of Let's Move, Kass guided us further down the South Lawn - past the White House swing set and tennis courts -- to the White House Kitchen Garden, the largest one ever at the White House.
It was a moment I wish my mother-in-law, the best gardener I know, could have experienced, walking past the basil, lemongrass, jalapeno peppers, squash, tomatoes, lima beans and eggplant -- eggplant that Kass said he would be harvesting that night for the Obama family.
Okay, but what about those brussels sprouts? I had to ask if all the Obamas - Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10, included - enjoy them. He smiled and seemed to indicate the answer was yes. "I look out for those girls," Kass said, saying he makes sure the vegetables taste good and doesn't experiment too much with different ones since he knows Mrs. Obama will make the girls eat what's on their plate.
The garden was the brainchild of the First Lady, a way to showcase the importance of homegrown produce and introduce children, who might not have ever eaten or seen vegetables, to a garden that could change their lives.
Kass recalled not sleeping the night before a big press event at the Garden, worried about one kid "spitting up some broccoli" which would become front-page news and damage the First Lady's initiative. Instead, a young girl, maybe 10 or 11, took a "giant" piece of cauliflower -- uncooked and no ranch dressing on the side -- to a nearby table and started "stuffing her face," he said. She had no idea what she was eating but the experience of harvesting that cauliflower made her not only want to try it, but practically inhale it.
Why is this important? Why do such experiences matter? Because if one parent is obese, there is a 40 percent chance the child will be obese, said Kass. When two parents are obese, the number jumps to 80 percent.
What can we do? Maybe get more girls and boys to chow down on some cauliflower!
Kelly Wallace is iVillage's Chief Correspondent. Follow Kelly on Twitter (@kellywallacetv)