When I grow up I want to be like Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa and Food Network queen. For those of you not versed in all things Ina, she was a Washington D.C. budget analyst who fled the Capitol to take over a fledgling specialty food store in the Hamptons called Barefoot Contessa. From there she started catering, built up the business, wrote some successful cookbooks and then rose to fame on the Food Network.
There is an effortlessness to Ina. I love that she is round because she eats her delicious food. Who can say no to her Straw and Hay with Gorgonzola (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/straw-and-hay-with-gorgonzola.html) or her orange chocolate chunk cake made from scratch (http://leitesculinaria.com/3076/recipes-barefoot-contessa-orange-chocolate-chunk-cake.html), a definite crowd pleaser. I don’t think Ina looks in the mirror wishing she was a size 4. She’s Ina, who only needs a perfectly draped pashmina and she’s ready for a party. She has fabulous friends with Tony Awards and gray, clapboard mansions overlooking the Long Island Sound who know how to mix a cocktail, help arrange the blue hydrangeas for the centerpiece or just stand beside her offering witty banter.
Jeffrey, Ina’s cuddly husband, is always gazing at her lovingly, in awe over another Friday night lemon roasted chicken and eager to jet Ina off to their flat in Paris so they can continue their gluttony with the best wine, cheese, bread and pastries.
As Ina likes to say with a breezy smile, “how easy is that?”
Well, it’s not easy for me. I own all of Ina’s cookbooks and I have been trying her recipes for nearly fifteen years. Dry, crusted ingredients are fossilized on the glossed pages from all my cooking attempts. I remain clumsy in the kitchen, have yet to figure out a system to best organize my cupboards and marvel at how tidy Ina keeps her work space while she cooks. Despite being messy and a kitchen klutz, Ina’s recipes are fool proof.
I am sure Ina has stylists, producers, house managers, and personal shoppers. But I can’t help but wonder how nice it would be to master all that she has mastered as a hostess, cook, and lifestyle hero.
Lately, I’ve been feeling like a traitor, moving away from my East Coast Barefoot Contessa to the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. Ree makes her home state of Oklahoma seem exotic with its sweeping plains, big sky and sunsets that take up the whole horizon. Barn burning is her excuse to throw a party and cow butter is a simple pleasure that makes everything taste better. She is “aw-shucks” goodness and another example of unflappability in the kitchen. Ree taught me how to make the moistest meatloaf (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/meatloaf-recipe.html) and a taco salad (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/chicken-taco-salad.html) that should be served in vats it’s so good.
I’ll keep watching Ina and Ree, buy their cookbooks and try their recipes. They are worth aspiring to be. Maybe by retirement I will be Ina ready, my husband will be awe struck by my flare in the kitchen and we’ll jet set to Paris for some baguettes and brie.