I have a fantasy that involves Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame. In this daydream world, she’s my personal chef. She’ll cook anything my heart desires, any time my heart desires it. At the very least, she invites me to one of her famous dinners in The Hamptons, or lets me tag along on one of her shopping trips to her favorite local cheese shop (Cavaniola’s Cheese Shop) or antique store (Bloom) or vegetable farm or florist (Bridgehampton Florist) (she prefers her table arrangements to contain several varieties of flowers but all one color, or one huge arrangement of all the same flower/same color). We could wile away the afternoon discussing her elegant but earthy favorite interior design style, Belgian country or her favorite range – Viking.
How did it all begin? Did you know that she worked in the White House Office of Management and Budget before her Barefoot Contessa life? Talk about someone who is both right-brained and left-brained. She must argue with herself all the time!
In 1978 I was working in the White House Office of Management and Budget and thinking I’ve got to do something more creative. I came across an ad in the New York Times for a specialty food store for sale in the Hamptons and I decided to investigate. My husband Jeffrey and I drove to Long Island to see the store and I fell in love. I had no experience in the food business but I knew that it was exactly what I wanted to do. I made the owner a low offer thinking I’d go home and I’d think about it. She called the next day and said, “I accept your offer.” Yikes! I owned a specialty food store!
Source: Barefoot Contessa
Eighteen years later, in 1996, she sold her specialty food store, The Barefoot Contessa, to two employees, and built an office over the store and wrote her first cookbook, what else, The Barefoot Contessa. There were more to follow.
I was surprised to learn that Ina Garten had not trained formerly. She taught herself culinary techniques with a little help from French and New England cookbooks. She then relied on her own sense of what worked and what didn’t. Valuing her customers, she listened to their opinions, and through hard work and good taste (literally), she built a highly respected reputation.
Martha Stewart’s role in Ina’s career
Stewart played a large role in the early development of Garten’s career, speaking favorably of her store, recipes, and home décor, and featuring both Garten’s home and one of her bakery confections on 1998 and 2001 covers of her magazine, Martha Stewart Living. After years of being friends and co-workers, however, the two women fell out over an alleged attempt by Stewart to take credit for one of Garten’s recipes. They have reportedly mended their relationship; Stewart wrote a foreword for The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, and Garten penned several columns on entertaining and cooking for Stewart’s magazine. Stewart’s sister, Laura Plimpton, has also been featured as a party guest on Barefoot Contessa.
Ina’s views on family, relationships and love
A quote from Ina Garten –
“ …We all know that families now aren’t necessarily like Ozzie and Harriet (it turns out Ozzie and Harriet’s family wasn’t all Ozzie and Harriet)… family has a traditional context, but today it’s not as simple as two parents with 2-3 kids… it’s about relationships… it’s about people who are bound together by love and a sense of being responsible for one another… it’s spouses with no children, like Jeffrey and me… it’s a group of women who meet to cook dinner together once a month… it’s a one-parent family with adopted children… it’s two men who’ve made a life together… at the end of the day, all we have is love… getting love, but even more, feeling love…
Let me stop
talking writing and show you the pics of Ina’s new barn and her Manhattan Apartment.
Now, that’s a pantry.
Looking out from the barn you can see the main house in the distance.
So there’s my harmless, little daydream – just a short walk down WhatIf Lane.
Check Ina out on the Food Network channel.
Photos: House Beautiful