Ina Garten–perhaps better known as the Barefoot Contessa–is immensely popular thanks to her many cookbooks and appearances on the Food Network. The fans were out in droves Saturday night when she and food writer Alex Witchel held a prime spot during the New York Times Arts & Leisure Weekend.
The conversation–appropriately scheduled before the dinner hour–introduced her new cookbook How Easy is That. Not only does Ina possess great cooking and home entertaining skills, it’s her longtime marriage to Jeffrey (who was in the audience) and passion for life that make her so inspirational.
Discussion often returned to simple recipes like roast chicken, which appears in her new book. “I think that is my success. I know what people want to eat,” she said to a hungry audience. When asked about her favorite restaurants, she admitted: “I hate tasting menus. I just want one thing for dinner. If it has to be explained to me, then I don’t want to eat it.”
In addition to her passion for creating new cookbooks, the Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics television show remains a great success. “Nothing is scripted at all, we’re just having a good time,” she said. Ina’s friends and, of course, Jeffrey often make cameo appearances on the show. Jeffrey in particular has an affinity for his wife’s brownies and tends to magically appear when they are fresh out of the oven. Brownies hold historic signifigance to the couple’s 42-year marriage–Ina began sending brownies to Jeffrey’s dorm at Dartmouth soon after they first met.
But brownies and other sweets were not instilled in Ina’s upbringing. Her mother, a nutritionist, saw food as medicine that should not be enjoyed, and therefore, never took pleasure in cooking or eating.
For Ina it would be years before cooking would became a profession. In her twenties, she worked at the White House as a policy analyst where Jeffrey was also employed. “I always wanted to be just like my dad and Jeffrey,” she confessed. Years later, though, Ina realized her calling when a local food shop became available for sale. It was the first time she felt truly independent.
The Emmy-award winner displayed her laid-back sense of humor with cooking mishaps: “The easier the recipe is, the more likely I am to screw it up. I think I know what I’m doing so I’ll likely skip a step.”
The question came up–do you ever see yourself writing a book based on a specific region? Ina loves Paris and spent a lot of time there when she and Jeffrey were younger; in fact, they spent four months camping in Europe on a budget of just $5 a day. She said moving to Paris is a possibility and they are open to the idea. Ina then told the audience to get out there. If you stop experiencing life, then you stop growing. How true!