Why I love Ina Garten

 Photo from People Magazine

Photo from People Magazine

 

Picture this: my chubby, backpack-toting junior-high self bursts through the front door, out of breath from running up the driveway. I toss down my heavy bookbag and fly to the living room to turn on the TV. I land just in time to hear a dulcet voice rhapsodizing on the benefits of “good vanilla.” This, friends, is the magic of Ina Garten.

 Photo from People magazine

Photo from People magazine

My love for Ina began as soon as my parents bought cable television. I had the after-school lineup memorized: Sandra Lee, then the Neelys, and finally Ina. I was smitten from the start.

Ina Garten has a way about her. Every episode is a showy display of her Hamptonian wealth: she pulls fresh flowers from her extensive garden, fraternizes with her well-off friends, and uses a wide variety of über-fresh ingredients. If you’ve seen an episode of the “Barefoot Contessa,” her longtime Food Network series, you’ve likely watched her discuss the importance of “good” ingredients—good vanilla being one of Ina's favorites.

But, of course, if you can’t find grade-A vanilla beans harvested by lemurs from the highly-elevated forests of Madagascar, store-bought are fine. I’ve even seen riffs of her famous “store bought is fine” line on Tinder bios saying, “If you can’t summon flames directly from hell, store-bought are fine.” Profound stuff.

But her culinary prowess isn’t the only thing to admire. Ina has a beautiful relationship with her longtime husband, Jeffrey. He makes guest appearances in nearly every episode, usually as the chummy taste-tester of Ina’s decadent dishes. Believe me, there’s no arm twisting involved,  and Jeffrey does his duty well. In fact, Ina’s most recent cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey, is about her experiences expressing her love for her husband through food. Honestly, Jeffrey and Ina are relationship goals, and I can only hope to one day have the same.

Finally, Ina lives with an inexplicable zen. She makes soufflés, tarts, and salads for her guests with the most effortless flourish. They then sit on her back porch and have brunch with perfect place settings color-coordinated to the season and crystalware polished so well you could see your reflection in it. The meals are smashing successes, and Ina doesn’t even break a sweat. And to top it all off, her prodigious gay florist friends make regular centerpieces to compliment the table.

Ina represents much of what I want in life. She has love, she has food, and she’s fundamentally at peace with the universe. She’s on her way to nirvana, baby. Hopefully, I can learn from her successes and hitch a ride there with her. If not, maybe I’ll get lucky and be reincarnated as one of the tulips in her manicured garden. In any case, I’m in for a fun ride.