Speed Read

12 Juicy Bits From Michelle Obama’s Garden Book

First Lady Michelle Obama’s new book, American Grown, is ostensibly about gardening, but also drops details about the First Family’s dinner schedule, the president’s joke about a farmer’s market getting the press off his back, honeybees at the White House, and other matters.

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American Grown by Michelle Obama ostensibly is an apolitical book: a fit-fanatic first lady’s ode to buds, bees, and Brussels sprouts. The words “president” and “Barack” don’t even appear in the index. But the short-yet-inexplicably costly—at $30— gardening tome, stuffed with organic recipes and hula-hooping volunteers, does drop a few interesting details about the Obama White House. Here are the 12 best:

1. As early as December, 2007, Michelle Obama was confident that Barack would become president. “I first had the idea to plant a vegetable garden at the White House…early in the presidential primary season,” she writes. “The Iowa caucuses hadn’t even happened yet.”

2. Michelle gives a tip of the hat to the Kennedy-era gardening of famed heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon.

3. In late 2009, President Obama joked that starting a White House farmers’ market would help get the press off his back. “We’re trying to figure out, can we get a little farmers’ market outside the White House?” he said. “I’m not going to have all of you just tromping around inside, but right outside the White House—that’s a win-win situation.”

4. Although the White House has a full-time pastry chef, “desserts” are “a treat for the weekends.” Drinks at the dinner table are restricted to “water and skim milk.”

5. The book won’t please the “Obama-is-a-secret-Muslim” crowd. It includes a mouthwatering recipe for “braised pork shoulder.”

6. The First Family sits down to eat every night at 6:30pm. They say a special grace that always ends with the phrase “We hope we live long and strong.”

7. The president and first Lady help Sasha and Malia “strategize about how to navigate the complicated world of elementary and middle school friendships.”

8. The White House recently has hived some honeybees, which have proved a point of contention. “Are those bees going to swarm when I play basketball?” the president asked. In fact, the stinging drones did swarm—not the basketball courts, but the White House press gate. “Secret Service officers huddled in the guard booth” until the official beekeeper took the bees down with a squirt bottle.

9. With the help of the garden, the first lady has played host to Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio, Iron Chef host Alton Brown, the Food Network’s Rachel Ray, and a few other stars. “I’ll never forget Heisman Trophy winter and NFL quarterback Sam Bradford,” she writes, “whose MVP hands are usually wrapped around a football, delicately pulling peas off the vine and cutting lettuce.”

10. In two years, FLOTUS and company were only able to grow a measly five pumpkins. In autumn, the kitchen had to serve squash soup to visiting Korean dignitaries.

11. According to Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a contributor to the book, 41 percent of the Army’s 129,000 yearly applicants are overweight or obese.

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12. While promoting her anti-obesity campaign, Michelle—let's not forget, the former head of community affairs at the University of Chicago Hospital—“danced ‘the Dougie’ to Beyonce with a bunch of middle schoolers.”