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The ‘First Lady of Food’ talks about the importance of home cooking traditions and motivating families to eat well together
Michelle Obama tells ‘Cooking Light’ that even in the White House, dinnertime is the family’s most important daily routine.
In the March issue of “Cooking Light,” First Lady Michelle Obama weighs in on the state of the family dinner in America, the ongoing goals of the Let’s Move! children's nutrition and wellness program, and family meals in Michelle’s childhood home.
In “The First Lady of Food,” Michelle reflects on her role as a proudly food and nutrition-focused leader, and the pressure of being able to directly influence how families eat.
“The most powerful thing that [people] can do for their overall health is feed their bodies good nutritious food,” Obama told “Cooking Light.” If you don’t like the doctor, if you don’t like government, if you don’t like folks messing with your life, the best thing to do is make sure you’re healthy.”
What’s more, both Michelle and Barack Obama understand that the cause of healthy eating must extend far beyond their time in the White House.
“Because our goals are generational, clearly we won’t be done by the time we leave the White House. So we're going to be thinking hard about ways that I can use my next platform as a way to keep shining a light on the things that we're doing. If there’s one word that I could say about what we do in the future, it’s ‘more.’ It’s more of this.”
“Cooking Light's” Family Dinner issue hits newsstands on Friday, February 13. The full interview with Michelle Obama is available online.
Michelle Obama's Workout Motivation Playlist Is Amazing
The former first lady shared her 2020 workout playlist that keeps her inspired even after new year's motivation starts to dwindle.
The better part of January𠅊nd with it, many of our new year&aposs resolutions—seems to have come and gone before our eyes. Good intentions to prioritize our health and well-being tend to fall by the wayside when life picks back up after the holidays, but former first lady Michelle Obama is inspiring us to push through and fight for our goals in order to be our happiest, healthiest selves.
Mrs. Obama took to Instagram over the weekend to share her 2020 workout playlist that helps her stay motivated to keep her body moving through these chilly winter months. She shared 27 workout songs with all kinds of fun tunes to keep you energized, plus 10 cooldown songs𠅊 great reminder we all need to prioritize stretching after exercise. From early 2000&aposs Destiny&aposs Child to Lizzo&aposs latest hits, the former first lady&aposs playlist is sure to help power you through a winter walk or weight lifting session.
While Michelle Obama is known for enjoying some high-intensity workouts, quick circuits and heavy weights aren&apost for everyone. And while this playlist may keep her pumped up for pushing herself through fast-paced cardio and strength sets, there are plenty of other great ways to move your body.
Simply prioritizing movement throughout your day may be a more sustainable option for you than making a daily appointment with the gym or fitness studio, and that&aposs totally OK! Walking the dog an extra block before work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, cooking for your family and even gardening are all good ways to stay active. And with that playlist going, your efforts to cook a healthy dinner could also turn into a mini dance party!
First meal for the first lady
There's no more wholesome place to get life lessons than Sesame Street, so it's no surprise that Michelle Obama appeared on an episode to drop some knowledge. In the clip, she's served oatmeal, fresh fruit, yogurt, and a glass of low-fat milk. She's just about ready to dig in when Grover shows up, hilariously disrupting the process.
In real life, what Obama eats for breakfast isn't too different from her Sesame Street meal. Brierly Wright, the nutrition editor for EatingWell magazine, told NBC New York that on the morning that the federal government replaced the food pyramid with the food plate system, Obama dined on scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, and fresh grapefruit. That's a pretty healthy selection, although Wright noted the meal could use more fresh fruit and veg.
Obama doesn't reach for produce and reduced-fat milk 100 percent of the time though. She informed The New York Times that she also enjoys waffles and grits for breakfast on occasion.
Here's What Mario Batali Is Cooking for President Obama's Final State Dinner
On Tuesday, Oct. 18, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are hosting the prime minster of Italy, Matteo Renzi, and his wife, Agnese Landini, for what is likely their final state dinner. Naturally, the occasion requires a very special menu — one that Italian cooking titan Mario Batali is especially equipped cook.
According to the White House website, the theme of the dinner is 𠇊merica’s Bountiful Harvest,” and the multi-course meal will feature the best of American produce prepared with Italian flair. When guests enter the dining room, they’ll nibble on passed canapes made “with ingredients from Mrs. Obama’s final harvest of the White House Kitchen Garden.”
The first course is sweet potato agnolotti with butter and sage, which is then followed by a very Michelle-ian salad: warm butternut squash with frisພ and Pecorino cheese. For the main course, guests will feast on a beef braciole pinwheel with horseradish gremolata and broccoli rabe, and then the dinner finishes with green apple crostata with thyme caramel and buttermilk gelato. (Of course, every course has its appropriate wine pairing. The Italian Prime Minister is coming over, after all.)
Batali has been posting photos of his whirlwind day at the White House, even his magical encounter with First Dogs Bo and Sunny.
First Lady Michelle Obama, WGBH Boston, And PBS Announce Winning Recipes In Nationwide Healthy Lunchtime Challenge
WASHINGTON, D.C. – First Lady Michelle Obama, PBS flagship station WGBH Boston, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today the winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a nationwide recipe challenge for kids that promotes cooking and healthy eating as part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative. Winners representing all U.S. states, five territories, and the District of Columbia will attend a Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House hosted by Mrs. Obama on July 14. The 56 aspiring young chefs and a parent or guardian will join the First Lady for a healthy lunch, featuring a selection of the winning recipes, followed by a visit to the White House Kitchen Garden.
“For the last five years, kids across the country have cooked up nutritious and delicious dishes as part of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, and each year, I continue to be impressed by their talent and creativity,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “Kids are truly embracing and enjoying healthy eating and preparing healthy meals for their families, and I look forward to meeting this year’s winners here at the White House for the Kids’ “State Dinner” and trying some of their tasty creations.”
This is the fifth year of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids’ “State Dinner” in which 8 to 12-year-olds across the nation were invited to create a healthy, affordable, original, and delicious lunch recipe. Entrants were encouraged to reference ChooseMyPlate.gov to ensure recipes met the USDA’s recommended nutrition guidance by representing each of the food groups, either in one dish or as parts of a lunch meal, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. In addition, in celebration of the MyPlate, MyState initiative, this year’s challenge put a spotlight on homegrown pride across the country and encouraged entries to include local ingredients grown in the entrant’s state, territory, or community. The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge received over 1,200 entries featuring wholesome, tasty ingredients. To make the challenge possible for kids and their families across America, support is being provided to WGBH by Newman’s Own Foundation.
The winners and featured recipes include:
- ALABAMA: Green Chicken Wrap and Fruit-tacular Salad, Lael Jefferson, Age 11
- ALASKA:Wrapped Alaska Denali Style and Spinach Smoothie, Denali Schijvens, Age 9
- AMERICAN SAMOA: Breadfruit, Taro, and Garlic Chicken Trio, Amelie Chen, Age 9
- ARIZONA:Scarlet's Southwest Barack-A-Bowl, Scarlet Summers, Age 10
- ARKANSAS:Asian in Arkansas, Lily Radtke, Age 11
- CALIFORNIA:Cannon's California Rolls, Cannon Meiers, Age 8
- COLORADO:Hannah's Sweet and Savory Chicken and Peaches, Hannah Skalicky, Age 10
- CONNECTICUT:Springtime Lunchtime, Kalaya Moody, Age 10
- DELAWARE:Caribbean Fiesta!, Jamal Bin-Yusif, Age 11
- FLORIDA:Bountiful Florida Fish “BFF” Cakes, Olivia LaRochelle, Age 12
- GEORGIA:Spaghetti Squash and Turkey Bolognese, Jackson Kelly, Age 8
- GUAM:Quinoa-Crusted Katsu Curry with Cauliflower Rice, Grayson Giles, Age 8
- HAWAII:Poke Me Ke Aloha, Kaira Grace Pan, Age 9
- IDAHO:Super Stars and Stripes Salmon Patty, Jacob Russell, Age 8
- ILLINOIS:West Wing Chicken with Secret Service Noodles, Maggie Smith, Age 11
- INDIANA:Chicken Tikka Pita with Cucumber Raita, Shakthi Ramachandran, Age 8
- IOWA: American Gothic Calzones, Lola Shorney, Age 11
- KANSAS:Lentil Tacos with Cilantro-Avocado Drizzle, Joey Heidari, Age 12
- KENTUCKY:One Bag Bluegrass Bake!, Will Bingham, Age 10
- LOUISIANA: Sweet Savory Dip-tastic Louisiana Power Lunch, Owen Osborne, Age 8
- MAINE:Quinoa Chickpea Salmon Rolls with Salad, Scout Bookham, Age 8
- MARYLAND:Maryland Crab Lettuce Cups, Colby Trenor, Age 9
- MASSACHUSETTS:Fit to Run Boston Marathon Cod-Potato Cake, Abby Newman, Age 10
- MICHIGAN:Super Stuffed Squash, Ethan Yodzevicis, Age 10
- MINNESOTA:Alexandra's Refreshing Watermelon Salad, Alexandra Steele, Age 9
- MISSISSIPPI:Kickin’ Cauliflower Shrimp and Grits, Aniya Madkin, Age 10
- MISSOURI:Tropical Vacation with Catfish and Quinoa, Abhijith Jenkins, Age 11
- MONTANA:Bison in a Field, Brooke DuCharme, Age 8
- NEBRASKA:Tasty Veggie Tacos, Lauren Hinrichs, Age 10
- NEVADA:Veggie-Packed Indian Lentils, Skylar McGough, Age 8
- NEW HAMPSHIRE:Teeny Zucchini Triangular Panini, Jude VanderHooven, Age 8
- NEW JERSEY:Gianna's Salmon Paradise, Gianna Malecki, Age 8
- NEW MEXICO:Green Chili Cheese Roll and Lime Jicama Fries, McLean Knight, Age 10
- NEW YORK:Chicken Cheeseball Kabobs on Veggie Spaghetti, Danielle Mazlish, Age 10
- NORTH CAROLINA:Korean Lentil Patties, Mena Choi, Age 10
- NORTH DAKOTA:Red Potato Boat with 3 Bean Bison Chili, Stella Halverson, Age 8
- NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS:Chicken Kebab Lettuce Wraps, Fanai Staffler, Age 9
- OHIO:Chicken Sausage Cauliflower Crust Pizza, Wyatt Rosengarten, Age 9
- OKLAHOMA:Okie Pride Brown Rice with Chicken and Vegetables, Maya Jacob, Age 10
- OREGON:All Kale Caesar!, Hannah Conte, Age 12
- PENNSYLVANIA:Sunny's Omelette and Bo's Patriotic Parfait, Ava Terosky, Age 9
- PUERTO RICO:Oat! My Tropical Pizza, Victor Junniel Rivera, Age 10
- RHODE ISLAND:Peace in the Middle East Soup and Salad, Pablo Aizenman, Age 10
- SOUTH CAROLINA:Carolina Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa, Kiana White, Age 12
- SOUTH DAKOTA:Catch of the Day Fish Tacos, Josh Weissenberger, Age 11
- TENNESSEE:Awesome Baked Falafel with Mango Salsa, Leya Alani, Age 9
- TEXAS:Tex-Mex Veg-Head Lasagna, Priya Patel, Age 10
- U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS:Healthy Chicken, Orin Hayes, Age 12
- UTAH:American Flag Ravioli in Creamy Garden Sauce, Daniela Bergantz, Age 10
- VERMONT:Go Local Lunch!, Miranda Gallagher, Age 8
- VIRGINIA:Victory at Yorktown, Kathryn Duvall, Age 10
- WASHINGTON:Salish Sea Kedgeree, Lukas Anderson, Age 10
- WASHINGTON, D.C.:D.I.Y. Sushi, Elena Sotobashi, Age 8
- WEST VIRGINIA:Grace's Supermeal: Cool Couscous and Berry Healthy Dessert, Grace Landini, Age 12
- WISCONSIN:Wisconsin Cranberry Chickpea Salad, Raya El-Hajjar, Age 8
- WYOMING:Chicken and Veggie Salad, Hannah Andreen, Age 11
Each winner and a parent or guardian will be flown to Washington, D.C. courtesy of United Airlines. Accommodations in Washington are provided by the Westin Georgetown. New this year, Blue Apron will be featuring one of the winning recipes on their Family Plan menu for delivery the week of July 11 as part of their efforts to get the whole family into the kitchen preparing healthy meals. In addition, at the Kids’ “State Dinner,” winners will have the opportunity to learn from Author, Daytime Host, Child Nutrition Advocate, and member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Rachael Ray, whose Yum-o! organization has joined to support this year’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.
“These extraordinary recipes remind us how much we all can learn from young people when we give them an opportunity to be inventive,” said WGBH Executive in Charge Brigid Sullivan.
Michelle Obama Banned Chelsea Clinton's Favorite Dish From The White House
Despite her daughters' love of macaroni and cheese, first lady Michelle Obama reveals in a new interview that she barred the boxed treat from the White House dinner table by teaching Sasha and Malia that cheese dust is not food.
While speaking to Cooking Light magazine about her five-year-old Let’s Move! campaign, Obama recalled an exchange between former White House chef Sam Kass and Malia about processed foods:
My kids loved the macaroni and cheese in a box. And [Sam] said, if it’s not real food then we’re not going to do it. If we want macaroni and cheese, we’ll cook it with real milk and real cheese. He said, there’s nothing wrong with mac and cheese, but it’s got to be real food.
So my oldest daughter [Malia], who was probably 8 at the time, he took a block of cheese and he said, if you can cut this cheese up into the powder that is the cheese of the boxed macaroni and cheese, then we’ll use it. She sat there for 30 minutes trying to pulverize a block of cheese into dust. I mean, she was really focused on it, and it just didn’t work, so she had to give up. And from then on, we stopped eating macaroni and cheese out of a box, because cheese dust is not food, as was the moral of that story.
By eliminating mac and cheese, Obama got rid of former first daughter Chelsea Clinton’s favorite dish. In 2008, former White House executive chef Walter Scheib said Clinton "had a very narrow idea of what she wanted to eat" while in the White House.
“Two of her favorites then were grilled chicken breast with lemon pasta and broccoli, and macaroni and cheese. She was very clear that it had to be Kraft macaroni and cheese from a blue box. We couldn’t deviate,” Scheib said.
Obama recalled the familiar routine of her family's dinner while growing up on the South Side of Chicago.
Obama said her mom "was famous for her lemon chicken, and that was a good Sunday dish. There was always the sad and unfortunate liver Wednesdays. That was during the time -- my father loved liver, and it just depressed me and my brother to no end when we knew it was liver time."
Despite her and the president’s busy schedules, the first lady added that maintaining family dinners is important to them.
"We’ve found that we’ve been able to have dinner every -- almost every night together, between 6:30 and 7:00. We have a bigger table and somebody else is doing the cooking, but the conversation and the mood and the tone are still the same. It’s our most important time of the day," FLOTUS said.
Michelle Obama Says She Is Dealing With ‘Low-Grade Depression’
In her new podcast, the former first lady connected her experience with the effects of quarantine and news about civil unrest and politics.
Michelle Obama said this week that she was experiencing “low-grade depression” and seemed to suggest that it was because of a combination of quarantine, racial unrest and the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.
In the second episode of her new podcast, which was released on Wednesday, Mrs. Obama, the former first lady, told the Washington Post columnist Michele Norris that she has had low points recently.
“There have been periods throughout this quarantine where I just have felt too low,” Mrs. Obama said, adding that her sleep was off. “You know, I’ve gone through those emotional highs and lows that I think everybody feels, where you just don’t feel yourself.”
“I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression,” she added. “Not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.”
She suggested that her depression was related to the ongoing protests and racial unrest around the United States since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.
“I have to say, that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to yet another story of a Black man or a Black person somehow being dehumanized or hurt or killed, or falsely accused of something, it is exhausting,” she said. “It has led to a weight that I haven’t felt in my life — in, in a while.”
Mrs. Obama said she had benefited from keeping a routine, including exercise, getting fresh air and having a regular dinner time.
The psychological effects of the pandemic are not yet fully clear. But the World Health Organization warned in May of a “massive increase in mental health conditions in the coming months,” fueled by anxiety and isolation as well as by the fear of contagion and the deaths of relatives and friends.
A survey conducted in June by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than 30 percent of adults in the United States were reporting symptoms consistent with anxiety or depression since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Depression is an illness that affects more than 264 million people worldwide, according to the W.H.O. Dr. Timothy Sullivan, the psychiatry and behavioral sciences chairman at Staten Island University Hospital, described it as a complicated mental state.
“Depending on how it’s defined, anyone, particularly at a time like this, could be experiencing some of the symptoms,” Dr. Sullivan said, including trouble sleeping, low energy and a lack of enthusiasm for things that usually interest them.
Depression is a result of individual biological risk factors coupled with influences in the environment, Dr. Sullivan said. “When someone experiences a loss, we know that it can make them sad,” he said, citing one example. “But if that loss also causes them to change fundamental routines that are important to their health, that’s going to create an additional risk factor.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said, “we’ve learned that when people experience significant disruptions in their daily routines, those disruptions can predispose people to depression.”
Asked how the news could affect a person’s mood or battle with depression, Dr. Sullivan said: “I think the main risk with news events is that people tend to ruminate about them. We know that when people ruminate, it increases feelings of helplessness and, in some cases, hopelessness, and that mental state does worsen mood and increases risk of depression.”
Dr. Sullivan said that if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, you should review your daily routines and try to establish healthy patterns, including managing sleep, eating at regular times of the day, exercising and having meaningful social interactions early in the morning, if possible.
Michelle Obama Dances the Tango in a Shimmery Dress at Argentina's State Dinner
No surprises here: Michelle Obama was the picture of elegance during a state dinner in Argentina on Wednesday night. The First Lady accompanied President Barack Obama to the event held in his honor by Argentina&aposs president Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires, and she looked positively radiant in a shimmery, knee-length dress scattered with crystal embellishments (above). FLOTUS wore her hair swept to one side in a loose bun to accentuate the dress&aposs neckline and diamond open circle dangle earrings.
After meeting with President Macri and his First Lady, Juliana Awada, the Obamas were treated to a night of dinner and dancing. As guests were enjoying a performance by two of Argentina&aposs renowned tango dancers, President Obama was beckoned onto the dance floor by the female dancer. POTUS acquiesced, although grudgingly at first, and proceeded to show off his moves for the crowd. Never one to miss out on the opportunity to bust a move, Michelle soon joined her husband on the floor for a few moments of dramatic performance with the male dancer.
2. You can never be too young &mdash or too old &mdash to make a difference.
Meet two new game changers: Marley Dias, founder of online movement #1000blackgirlbooks, collects and distributes books so girls of color can see themselves doing [insert cool job here] and dream without limits. Mikaila Ulmer, founder and CEO of Me & the Bees Lemonade, turned her fear of bees into a 21st-century lemonade stand with a huge following now Whole Foods stocks her drinks, and she donates a portion of proceeds to saving honeybees. Ready to be inspired? Both #girlbosses are only 11 years old!
Michelle Obama’s State Dinner Fashion
And not just because she could have introduced oft-overlooked Scandinavian designers to a new audience. Yes, they exist, and not just for pared-down daywear: There is a Copenhagen Fashion Week and a Stockholm Fashion Week, and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, who is known for wearing Danish names, was voted “Most Stylish Royal” (beating out the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton) by Hello magazine readers in 2014 and 2015. Among her favorite designers is Ole Yde, of YDE Copenhagen, who is known for his poetic approach to clothing and his way with an evening dress.
(Meanwhile, Petra Mede, co-host of this year’s Eurovision song contest, held in Sweden, wore looks from the local designers Lars Wallin, Ida Lanto and Valerie Aflalo.)
But also because one of the points of discussion of the state visit was climate change, an issue on which the Nordic countries have long been in the lead. Indeed, at the same time as the visit, Copenhagen was playing host to a series of fashion-related events around the subject of sustainability and style, including the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s annual members meeting, the Youth Fashion Summit, Planet Textiles: The Sustainable Textile Summit, and the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, which focused on “responsible innovation” (full disclosure: I was part of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit). As fashion wakes up to the issue, the state dinner could have been a very effective platform for reflecting the idea of responsible fashion.
Imagine, for example, if the first lady had chosen a gown from the green carpet challenge, like the ones worn by Emma Watson and Lupita Nyong’o to the Met Gala that were designed by Calvin Klein and made from fabric formed from recycled plastic bottles (and that were among the more lauded dresses on that not particularly lauded red carpet)?
Or even more provocatively, and perhaps appropriately, a gown from H&M’s new Conscious Exclusive collection (a line that focuses on merging glamour and good by using eco-sensitive materials), as modeled by Crown Princess Mary during a dinner in the palace for the fashion summit, which would tick both the climate change box and the Scandinavian designer box, not to mention the economically accessible box.
It would have been a powerful message to send, but it didn’t happen.
Indeed, along with Mrs. Obama’s appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Givenchy couture, the choice of Naeem Khan seems to indicate that she may be less interested in forwarding a particular agenda at this point in her husband’s “fourth quarter” than perhaps getting ready for her future in private life.
That’s fair enough. But there is over half a year left to go before the Obamas exit the White House. Mrs. Obama raised the bar, and expectations, when it comes to first ladies’ image (or first spouse’s), and how it could be used. Let’s hope she doesn’t lower it now.
In Netflix’s ‘Waffles + Mochi,’ Michelle Obama helps kids learn about food
When Barack and Michelle Obama signed a deal with one of the largest content platform/production companies in the world, viewers became curious about what kinds of projects they would present. Now comes “Waffles + Mochi,” a new educational food show that recently began streaming on Netflix.
Created by Erika Thormahlen and Jeremy Konner, it’s geared to children and combines puppets, live action and animation and this first season was filmed on location in Italy, Peru, Japan, South Korea, Uganda and the U.S. An all-star cast of chefs from around the world make guest appearances, including José Andrés, Samin Nosrat and Bricia Lopez, co-owner of Guelaguetza in Los Angeles.
“Waffles + Mochi,” a new educational food show which recently began streaming on Netflix, is geared to kids and combines puppets, live action and animation. The program includes guest appearances by famous chefs such as Samin Nosrat, seen here. (Courtesy of Netflix)
“Waffles + Mochi,” a new educational food show which recently began streaming on Netflix, is geared to kids and combines puppets, live action and animation. In the “Salt” episode, Los Angeles restaurateur Bricia Lopez makes Oaxacan mole. (Courtesy of Netflix)
“Waffles + Mochi,” a new educational food show which recently began streaming on Netflix, is geared to kids and combines puppets, live action and animation. The cast includes Michelle Obama. (Courtesy of Netflix)
“Waffles + Mochi,” a new educational food show which recently began streaming on Netflix, is geared to kids and combines puppets, live action and animation. The cast includes Michelle Obama. (Courtesy of Netflix)
“Waffles + Mochi,” a new educational food show which recently began streaming on Netflix, is geared to kids and combines puppets, live action and animation. Seen here, the title characters ride in a magical shopping cart. (Courtesy of Netflix)
“Waffles + Mochi,” a new educational food show which recently began streaming on Netflix, is geared to kids and combines puppets, live action and animation. In the “Tomato” episode, chef Jose Andres makes gazpacho. (Courtesy of Netflix)
We spoke to Lopez about the show and put together her insights with the latest info from Netflix on what viewers should expect. Here’s what you need to know if your family has young children, loves food, and is searching for new programs to watch together.
The show stars former First Lady Michelle Obama as “Mrs. Obama” and her segments bookend each 20-minute episode. She guides the cuddly puppet characters, created by Swazzle and Viva la Puppet, before they take off on their missions and after they return.
Waffles and Mochi look like their names, Busy is a cranky busybody bee. Waffles has a childlike curiosity, inexperienced but eager for adventure. Mochi speaks in a wordless, Chewbacca-type language, making all kinds of high-pitched, excitable sounds that convey a lot of meanings and emotions that children are sure to understand.
Waffles and Mochi live in The Land of Frozen Food but they long to become chefs. They escape and journey to a grocery store where they meet Mrs. Obama in a rooftop garden and begin to learn about fresh foods firsthand, making recipes and investigating the origins of produce and other ingredients. They take off in a flying shopping cart for locations around the globe and the fun begins.
LEARNING ABOUT NEW FOODS
The show almost seems designed to speak to picky eaters. “I was a very, very picky eater as a kid,” said Shaun Diston, one of the show’s writers. “I wanted to work on a show that made it easier for picky eaters to have fun with food.”
A note from Higher Ground Productions explains that the creators of the show were inspired by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign. They aim to use the universal language of food, “to take kids on an adventure around the world, and bring culture and the joy of cooking into their lives.”
Higher Ground Productions and Michelle Obama will work with Partnership for a Healthier America to launch programs with retailers, food banks and other organizations to help families have fun with food as they also become healthier.
“I couldn’t be more excited to join in this hilarious, heartwarming and simply magical show — and I’m not just saying that because of the flying shopping cart,” said Michelle Obama in a production note. “I only wish ‘Waffles + Mochi’ had been around when my daughters were growing up, because it’s the kind of program that’s fun to watch together as a family, and gives parents the peace of mind to know that their little ones are learning something too,” she said.
CHEFS AND FOOD INDUSTRY WORKERS
Waffles and Mochi have encounters with salt harvesters, food industry workers and lots of chefs. In the “Tomato” episode they learn that this versatile fruit can be cooked in savory dishes when they visit internationally renowned chef and humanitarian José Andrés, who shows them what goes into Spanish gazpacho. In the “Salt” episode, Los Angeles restaurateur Bricia Lopez blends tomatoes, chocolate, spices and other ingredients into a sophisticated Oaxacan mole dish.
“I think that it’s our responsibility as adults to understand that children deserve our respect and I really applaud Netflix and the production house for giving them quality content and not dumbing anything down for them,” Lopez said.
The show’s creators aim to teach culture along with food, and Lopez said she enjoyed serving her mole coloradito recipe at a family dinner attended by her son and his cousins, her sister, and special guests Waffles and Mochi.
“It’s really an essence of who I am,” she said. “It’s a dish that has different layers of flavors. It’s one of my favorite things that I had growing up as children in Oaxaca it was a dish to have on a regular basis. And I wanted to break the misconception that it’s difficult to make, and also to make it relatable to children. And to bring more awareness to the beauty of Mexico and Oaxaca.”
In the “Salt” episode Waffles and Mochi learn about seasoning dishes properly. In Lopez’s kitchen she explains the concept of sazón. The Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy defines the word as “the point or maturity of things, the state of perfection in its line.”
But that’s not its entire meaning. It’s a complicated concept, but Lopez explains it so anyone can understand.
“It’s that invisible ingredient that we all have inside of us that really comes forth with practice, with love, with patience,” she said. “Everyone has their own taste, their own palate, it’s sort of like your DNA, it’s your own and it cannot be replicated. So I wanted to encourage everyone to just really tune into that — your own sazón — and keep working at it. It only gets better with time.”
THE FUN FACTOR
While the children learn along with Waffles and Mochi, there are many moments of whimsy: a heavenly choir sounds when they taste delicious foods, animated fairy dust effects appear when they sprinkle seasonings into a recipe, a cartoon break in which a tomato sings a torch song about being a misunderstood fruit that often gets mistaken for a vegetable.
Even the grownups cut loose. José Andrés and Bricia Lopez both dance wildly with the puppets while the blender twirls, and that enthusiasm for food is an important element of the program, Lopez said.
“I think all of us should always tap into the inner child that we have. I think as adults we take ourselves so seriously sometimes, and we can be very stern. It’s, you know, ‘Go! Go! Go!’ Like myself right now, I still have to put out fires everyday, all the time,” she said. “But going back and speaking to your inner kid — that we all have inside of us — it’s super important to maintain a joyful spirit. I think that’s the healthiest thing to have.”