Her mother typically prepared traditional dishes like roast beef, meatloaf, or spaghetti and meatballs “when she felt fun and free and Italian—that was our notion of traveling the world, when we had spaghetti and meatballs,” Obama recalls with a laugh. Her father stepped in from time to time with recipes of his own, including his peppered steak. “For all the men out there who swear they can’t cook: If you can read, you can cook. Barack has recipes, my father did too!”
For all the lessons she learned at Princeton, Harvard, in her time as first lady in an historic administration, as well as in the aftermath, the most crucial tools for getting through, which “keep [her] upright,” were imparted to Obama in that compact kitchen on Euclid Avenue, she tells Norris.
“The conversations in my household about fairness and honesty, how to be a person in this world, how to treat others, the compassion—that all happened around the table,” Obama says. “I tell parents today that raising a human being has nothing to do with stuff, the size of the house, or the depth of the kitchen counter, or whether you have the right kind of stove or oven; we had none of it. We had so little. The stuff wasn’t it, it was the quality of the love in the space, and I still believe that’s true. We have lived in some of the grandest homes you can see, but when I think about what I want to teach my girls, it reverts back to those messages I got in that little bitty kitchen.”