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Michelle Obama shares some heartwarming stories from her childhood in this podcast. Here are my favourite moments from the podcast.
How important is the kitchen in a family’s life?
Well, it is not just the meals that are being prepared. A lot more goes on.
In every home, you can find a potpourri of emotions, sentiments, conversations, nostalgia, and day-to-day happenings that are affectionately layered in this place.
Author and journalist Michele Norris takes an adventurous stride as she explores the significance of the family kitchen in her new podcast “My Mama’s Kitchen”. Her guest in episode 1 is Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama.
Between one Michele and another, it is indeed a fun package. From the podcast, I have picked up the best moments that tell the story of a woman who is so proud to talk about her humble past.
The apartment in which Michelle Obama grew up was a rather tiny accommodation. According to her, the kitchen was probably a bedroom at one time. There was a small Formica sink and not much cabinet space, and she and her brother washed the dishes because they did not have a dishwasher appliance.
“Oh, a dining room? What was that?” says Michelle Obama.
The family didn’t have a fancy place to eat meals. A table in the kitchen, either borrowed or used, served multiple purposes. The yellow, checkered plastic tablecloth that covered it was like a map of their lives. As she grew up, she knew precisely every stain and burned mark on that piece of cloth.
Michelle’s mother created a table of high efficiency. Preparations for baking, paying bills, doing homework, decorating Easter eggs, and many other things happened on that kitchen table.
The kitchen was the center of their home where cousins and relatives gathered as her mom cooked. She recounts how peals of laughter filled the air, how she and her girlfriends from grammar school ate lunch in the kitchen and played jacks on the floor.
Mommy was a kitchen beautician
The Formica sink was the spot where Michelle’s mother washed and conditioned her hair. The styling was done in the kitchen too. A metal comb, heated on the stove, would straighten the hair with a little grease. She recalls that painful experience when she would cry, fight, and be mad with her mom as her father and brother would leave the room.
There was a disciplined dinner ritual
Save for the occasional adjustments made to fit in Michelle’s father’s working hours, the family ate at the same time. The four would sit together at the table and bow their heads in prayer before eating their food.
The refrigerator narrated the story of a working class family
There were bare essentials inside the fridge, and they would last for a long time. Michelle reminisces on how she could not get all that she wanted upon opening the door. There were not too many choices, and there was a limit as to what she could pick. While mentioning that a bag of Oreos would last for a month, she narrates a funny story.
Once as a child, Michelle asked her mother whether she could have Oreos as a pre-dinner snack. She was given permission to take just one. Thinking that she could easily get away with two of those, she first stealthily ate one and then, holding the second one in her hand, walked to the living room where her mom was sitting. Her mother caught her immediately, telling her that she was supposed to take just one. When Michelle asked her mom how she knew, pat came the reply, “Because you have two Oreo breath.”
The former First Lady despised breakfast. The first meal of the day was a big affair in the Robinson household because her brother was a growing athlete. Michelle, however, excused herself from the cereal, eggs, toast, bacon, and sausage that her mom served.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were all she ate for breakfast until she was in college. She however acknowledges how she is into breakfast these days and how her habits have changed since then!
The culinary tidbits
Michelle Obama’s mother did not consider herself a good cook. She consulted the Betty Crocker cookbook for her recipes and added her personal touch. Her father occasionally cooked, and she loved the apple pie he made.
We get to know that Barack Obama, on rare occasions, has cooked too. As Michelle humorously adds: “Anybody who can read and has sense and tastebuds can cook.”
Lovely memories flood Michelle Obama when she talks about the moist, yummy cakes that her mom baked for their birthdays. While hers was chocolate, her brother got a red velvet cake. There is something extra special about homemade cakes, she feels. Her mother did try baking even in the White House but felt that the ovens weren’t right.
A dish called red rice was relished in the Robinson kitchen. It was a hand-me-down recipe from their South Carolina elders. Sausage and shrimp were added to rice steeped in tomato sauce. Obama says that she still asks for the cake and red rice every time she goes home to her mom.
Gratitude was what the family practiced. In spite of being poor, they considered themselves fortunate and blessed. With utter grace and humility, Obama owes her success in life to all that she learned in that teeny kitchen.
The importance of fairness and honesty were emphasized. Either through spoken words or stories or simply observing her hardworking father pay bills every week at the table, she imbibed the values of compassion and kindness. Her keen sense of humor is also something that she inherited from the stories that happened in the “little bitty kitchen”.
Michelle Obama leaves a beautiful, heartwarming message for parents. She reflects on how the power of their love creates wonders.
The size and grandeur of the kitchen and the gadgets that adorn it have nothing to do with raising good human beings. What counts is the quality of love in the space. Although she has lived in some of the grandest homes on the planet, the lessons that she seeks to teach her girls always revert back to the values that she inculcated in that cramped, tiny kitchen of Euclid Avenue.
Image Source: Canva Pro
Rashmi Bora Das is a freelance writer settled in the suburbs of Atlanta. She has a master’s degree in English from India, and a second master’s in Public Administration from the University of read more...
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