Why the Obamas Don’t Eat Mac and Cheese Out of a Box Anymore

2 minute read

Michelle Obama sat down with Cooking Light for an interview about her now five-year-old Let’s Move! campaign, but she also opened up about the meals she grew up with and the challenges of cooking for a family.

In one of the more interesting anecdotes, the First Lady recalls the time Sam Kass, the former executive director of Let’s Move! and White House chef, taught her older daughter, Malia, a memorable lesson about eliminating processed foods.

My kids loved the macaroni and cheese in a box. And he 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.

Those rules would have been hard for Chelsea Clinton to follow back when she moved into the White House at age 12. “At that age she had a very narrow idea of what she wanted to eat,” former White House executive chef Walter Scheib recalled in 2008. “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.”

Read the rest of the First Lady’s interview at Cooking Light.

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Write to Nolan Feeney at nolan.feeney@time.com