By Colleen Barry, Associated Press
MILAN >> Michelle Obama took her campaign for healthy eating overseas on Wednesday, but let it slip that she still has work to do at home.
The U.S. first lady prepared a lentil, barley and rice salad with middle school students at the James Beard American Restaurant in Milan, the second leg of a European tour that promotes some of her core initiatives, including eating well to fight obesity.
Mrs. Obama emphasized to the 20 international students from the American School of Milan the importance of sitting down for a meal with the family as often as possible. She said that the president always takes time for dinner with the family, and that taking time to talk about the day’s events over dinner was one way to slow down and be conscious of eating.
“And you probably eat less because you are not just shoveling. … We don’t shovel. Well, the president shovels sometimes,” the first lady said to laughter.
Hundreds of people lined the streets of Milan to catch a glimpse of her motorcade as it traveled from the restaurant near the Duomo in the heart of the city to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church. There, in keeping with the food theme, the first lady and her entourage viewed Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”
Mrs. Obama’s teenage daughters Malia and Sasha and her mother, Marian Robinson, joined her for the cultural outing. They were greeted outside by Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, his wife Agnes and 9-year-old daughter Ester.
Mrs. Obama leaned over to give the Renzis’ daughter a hug, and Malia Obama waved to her and said “Nice to meet you.”
Ester Renzi laughed off a stumble as they walked toward the church to see the fresco, as the Obama daughters reached out to help her.
Mrs. Obama is leading a presidential delegation to the Expo 2015 world’s fair that tackles issues surrounding food and nutrition, dovetailing with her focus on fighting childhood obesity through her five-year-old “Let’s Move” program.
The first lady said the delegation, which includes star chef Mario Batali, urban farmer Will Allen and seven-time NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning, would be meeting with people from other countries at Expo to discuss ways to tackle issues of health and nutrition.
At the James Beard restaurant, Mrs. Obama took a hands-on approach, slicing chicken and mixing vinaigrette for the mixed grain and pasta salad while chatting with a group of student helpers about their sports activities.
“I’m multi-tasking here,” she said. “That is what you do when you cook.”
Mrs. Obama said they could help fight obesity by helping to cook at home and knowing where the food on the table came from. She also had what may have been unwelcome, if familiar, news: “You gotta eat your vegetables,” she told them. “Yeah, sorry about that.”
After sitting down to eat with the students, she signed each of their school aprons, which were specially made for the occasion.
On Thursday, Mrs. Obama will visit the Italian and U.S. pavilions at Expo, meeting a group of Italian children and student ambassadors from the U.S.
Her overseas trip continues Friday with a visit to U.S. troops stationed in Vicenza, northern Italy. Her final stop will be Venice, where she has more cultural outings, including a visit to the award-winning U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale contemporary art show.