An Open Love Letter to Ina Garten

Last Wednesday New York City was covered with a fresh blanket of snow, which was promptly plowed away before anyone woke up that morning. Thankfully, my company had called a snow day the afternoon before and I spent the day, sleeping in, walking around Central Park, drinking coco and watching movies. And of course cooking! My morning started with a bacon, egg, and cheese on a…no not a bagel…no not a hard roll…actually this is a stupid guessing game, because there’s a picture of it right there, yes that’s a waffle. An Eggo waffle to be exact. And as I was dragging myself out of bed around noon Matt was busy in the kitchen cooking up some waffle breakfast sammies…they were delicious and I was kind of tempted to put syrup on it, but I refrained.

"Egg McMinnella"

After breakfast we went for a very long and very snowy walk in the park. When we got home I curled up on the couch and watched one of my (unsurprisingly) favorite movies Julie and Julia. (My plan to curl up with coco was halted when Matt brought me back a bottle of Kim Crawford…oops, at least it was after 4pm.) The movie follows Julie Powell, 9 to 5 desk job drone by day, renegade food blogger by night. She spends the movie cooking her way through her culinary idols cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. I could go on for hours about why I love this movie so much, but I think the number one reason is that I (again unsurprisingly) really identify with the main character. And just as Julia Child is her hero in the kitchen, Ina Garten is mine.

In short, I love Ina – and I’m mildly obsessed with her. I have all of her cookbooks, I’ve seen basically every episode of her show, and one day I spent about three hours driving all over Southampton trying to meet her. I swear I’m not really a stalker, it’s just well…it’s kind of a long story -here’s the short version. Last year when I was working in the Hamptons as an event planner for a museum, one of our fundraising events was a garden symposium. The event began with a series of garden tours held on sprawling Hamptons estates. About two hours into the event my boss sent me a text. “INA ON TOUR.” Here’s where I’ll shorten the story for you. Basically I drove to every single house on the tour, only to be told by the volunteers “Oh you just missed her.” They’d show me the pictures they took with her, or tell me about the funny story she told, or brag about how they were now best friends and she invited them to a clambake on the beach being hosted by her fabulous gay friend. Okay that last one didn’t happen, but I’m willing to bet it could have if  only the karma Gods had been on my side that day. My boss and my grandma (also a fellow Ina fan) both told me that I should write to her, tell her how much I admire her, and relay my humorous story of chasing her around the estate section of Southampton. Well I was a little too embarrassed to do that, so instead I’ve decided to use my blog as the forum for my open love letter to the Barefoot.

Ricotta Bruschetta a la Barefoot

I love her for so many reasons. I love how much passion she has for cooking and feeding people. She cooks because she loves to eat and because she loves to feed her husband. In fact, that’s how she started cooking. When her then boyfriend (now husband) Jeffrey was away at college she would send him these marvelous packages filled with delicious baked goods. She cooked because she cared and because it made people happy. Once married, Ina loved throwing dinner parties and became known about town as the hostess with the mostess. Then on a whim she bought The Barefoot Contessa, a specialty food store in the Hamptons, and well, the rest is history.

But I digress, back to why I love her…For one, her house…ugh! That house! If Nancy Myers and Nora Ephron had love child and it grew up and became an interior decorator, it would be hired to decorate Ina’s kitchen. (On a side note I think that child and I would be very good friends.) Not only do I love the way her house is decorated, but I love the way Ina cooks. She loves earthy, homey foods, simple to make but full of flavor and always containing a little bit of a “wow” factor. She loves fresh flowers and the beach and Le Creuset pans. She sets beautiful table-scapes, she throws parties for no reason, and whips up a batch of scones on a Tuesday morning, because well, because she’s the Barefoot, and she can. She shops at specialty food stores, she believes in high quality ingredients, and responsible local eating. She starts all of her recipes with butter AND olive oil, probably overly decadent and unnecessary, but don’t you dare judge her…she’s the Barefoot. She has the most incredibly delicious recipes, because she tests them about a billion times and is very detail oriented. Her “Outrageous Brownies” should be illegal they are so good. And she makes me happy. Her jean shirts, her crisp white table linens, and affinity for hydrangeas in clear vases,  just make me really, really, unabashedly happy.  I feel like I know her, I feel like we’re old friends. And when I watch her show or read her books it’s like she’s teaching me everything she’s learned over the last 2o years or so in this business. She’s like my fairy godmother. Except…we’ve never met. But maybe one day we will. And I can tell her face to face how lovely I think she is.

On Wednesday night I made one of the aforementioned incredibly delicious recipes of hers. Chicken with forty cloves of garlic. It might seem like an excessive amount of garlic, but not when it’s browned up and braised in a white wine cream sauce. It becomes soft and sweet and seeps into the cooking liquid, making a sauce so tasty that I would actually drink it out of a mug. It goes great over cous cous, the sauce and chicken all blend together and every bite is full of flavor and texture. It also was a great excuse to whip out my new dutch oven, a Christmas present from Matt’s parents. I put my monstrous blue pot to work again this past weekend when I made (for the second time in one month) braised short ribs. This weekend was full of fantastic culinary adventures, including a trek out to Brooklyn for wild boar ragu, a trip to the greatest grocery store on the planet (you guessed it, Eataly) and lazy morning breakfast that morphed into the greatest stuffed french toast I’d ever eaten. Stay tuned…I promise I wont make you wait as long this time!

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2 thoughts on “An Open Love Letter to Ina Garten

  1. I swear, I could have written this myself! My love for Ina knows no bounds – I just think she’s the bee’s knees! I drove 7 hours roundtrip to see her on her book tour and get an autographed copy of “How Easy Is That?” and it was worth every minute 🙂

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