Reporter Rachel Swarns continues to scatter roses in the path of First Lady Michelle Obama. Her Thursday Style section piece, "On the Home Front, A Twist of Candor," is only the latest celebratory bloom.
The perilous question came from an earnest schoolboy, who posed this doozy of a query to the new first lady: "Do you like cooking for your family, even though you have cooks and all of that?"
In the rarefied world of presidential spouses, this has long been treacherous territory. Other first ladies have parsed their comments carefully to avoid suggesting that they had cheerfully relinquished kitchen duty. (Hillary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush both touted their homemade cookies at times though neither cooked much at all in the White House.)
But Michelle Obama did not mince words.
"I don't miss cooking," Mrs. Obama said, laughing, as she took questions from students visiting the White House. "I'm just fine with other people cooking. Their food is really good."
Mrs. Obama has long been known as frank and down to earth. Now, as first lady, she is bringing some of that sensibility into the Executive Mansion, particularly when it comes to laying out the day-to-day thrills and challenges of her domestic life.
For generations, first ladies have doled out details of their personal and family lives to humanize themselves and their husbands. But historians and political analysts say Mrs. Obama is offering a new twist by discussing the everyday realities she faces as a professional woman who is raising young children and nurturing a marriage while juggling an active schedule.
In doing so, they say, she is fashioning a more intimate rapport with the public, particularly with a modern generation of working mothers, who often recognize themselves in her reflections about the struggle to balance work and family life.