What Michelle Obama and I have in common

Our new First Lady loves French fries.

“They are my favorite food in the whole wide world,” she admitted to the New York Times yesterday. “I could live on French fries.”

Oh yeah!

I’ve suspected for a while now that Michelle Obama was a kindred spirit, but now I know for sure.

Most people outgrow their childhood food crushes, but some of us cling proudly (OK, stubbornly) to them. French fries have long reigned supreme atop my list of guilty pleasures, right up there with American Idol and chocolate chips.

One year on my birthday, my husband and our boys put me in the car and told me they were taking me someplace special. It turned out to be the drive-thru at a local fast food restaurant, where they gleefully presented me with a super-size container of fries all my own.

I was tickled pink. And I didn’t share.

Another time, the night I won the Oregon Book Award a few years back, my husband took me out afterwards to one of Portland’s fanciest restaurants to celebrate. What did I order? French fries, of course. They came in a champagne flute lined with parchment paper. They were delicious.

So are the sweet potato fries served seasonally at Burgerville, a Northwest chain (and the only fast food establishment where Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, will eat, since they serve locally grown produce and meat and free range eggs).

I’ve eaten French fries that came wrapped in newspaper atop flaky fish at chip shops in England. I’ve eaten French fries that were plain and French fries that that were fancy, tarted up with herbs and curries and dipping sauces. I’ve eaten them at the beach, in the car, dressed up, dressed down, homemade, store-bought, native and foreign. It doesn’t matter. I love them all. Shoestrings, crinkle cuts, steak fries, wedges, pommes frites, chips – I don’t care what shape they’recut in and I don’t care what they’re called. All I care is that they’re served up hot and crispy, with plenty of salt and ketchup.

My latest fave are the fries at Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which opened its first franchise here in Oregon recently. A week or two ago I read that the First Lady took her staff to one in Washington for lunch. Now I know why.

Mrs. Obama, any time you come to Portland, the fries are on me!


SCBWI Book Signing Gala in Portland!

This coming Friday night (March 13th) at 5:00 p.m., the Barnes & Noble at Clackamas Town Center will host a celebration of Oregon children’s authors.  A whole raft of us will be there, signing copies of our books, including Joni Akins, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Susan Blackaby, Susan Boase, Addie Boswell, Carolyn Conahan, Ruth Tenzer Feldman, Christine Fletcher, Susan Fletcher, Julie Haggerty, April Henry, Deborah Hopkinson, Ellen Howard, Mai S. Kemble, Robin Koontz, Susan Allen and Jane Lindaman, Anne Osterlund, Rosanne Parry, Lori Ries, Elizabeth Rusch, Sara Ryan, Lisa Schroeder, Johanna Wright, David Ward, Virginia Euwer Wolff and Linda Zuckerman.

It’s a rare chance to catch us all in the same place at the same time — hope to see you there!

The indispensability of art

Earlier this week, artist Barbara Cook Spencer wrote an essay for The Christian Science Monitor entitled "Art: a basic necessity of life," in which she challenges readers to think more deeply about the place of art in our daily lives.  Beautifully written, passionate, and inspiring, it’s essential reading for writers, poets, painters, dancers — anyone engaged in the arts, in my opinion.  It’s going directly into my "keeper" file to be savored often, and shared with all my future writing students.