An Open Letter To Ina Garten

Dear Ina,??

It’s not you, it’s me.?

?I mean to say, I know this is rooted in my own psychosis, but you make me feel inadequate as a woman. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the whole butt and boobs and sex appeal thing, and have plenty of the first, some of the second, and the last is for the audience at home to decide, even though that’s really a moot point. But this is an era of the working woman, a time when women not only cook and entertain, as you do so brilliantly, but they are CEOs and lawyers and specialists and run their own businesses, and Wikipedia and your website have both told me that you knew this world, too, so I figure you’d understand.

You’d be sympathetic. You’d know that not every woman could escape jobs that weren’t all that breezy and fabulous and sometimes involved fifteen-hour days, but do you have to rub it in our faces that you, seemingly, have escaped this corporate hell?

??I know, I know, you probably travel a lot. And filming your shows isn’t exactly as light and airy as your lemon meringue pie, and I’m just going off of what your PR team has somehow shellacked together in matte ecru paint and called your lovely little life. But really? I searched your Wikipedia page and, seriously? You had a job at the White House before this gig? Really? Jeez, woman, must you always overachieve? You’re making me feel inadequate as a member to society all around.??

I would also like to state that I painstakingly took the time to test out your coconut cupcake and cream cheese frosting boxed mix, and just have to wonder: is it ever inadequate? Like, ever? Because I must have had five and they all tasted like I went and had an orgasm in heaven. Your brownie pudding was even better, and seriously, woman, if you keep this up, everyone’s going to stop having sex and will end up just eating your dessert mixes and the world’s going to die out, and we’re going to all blame you for the demise of the human population.

??But really, you make feel the exact opposite of being a natural woman. I feel extraordinarily inadequate when it comes to you, partially because you harken to some feminine idea of old that all but died in the pages of True Prep until Charlotte York-MacDougall-Goldenblatt came along and created the revival of it being acceptable to wear pearls and actually aspire to become a professional housewife. I was raised to be a dirty, rotten hipster, Ina. I grew up in Los Angeles, and got my first tattoo on the Venice Boardwalk when I was 16 and in a questionably altered state of mind. My high school parties were fueled by Smirnoff Twists! Watermelon and the Sam Adams and Bohemias we’d pilfer from our “discerning” parents.

I didn’t even know what a clambake was, and even if I did, the closest I ever got were illegal bonfires by the Santa Monica Pier. Where we guzzled cheap Jose Cuervo and his corn syrup laced margarita mix, mind you, and none of this fancy homemade margarita crap. I didn’t even know you could make a margarita from scratch, let alone serve it with clams. I didn’t even think that margaritas were what people drank at clambakes. I thought you’d all be drinking pinot grigio a la Ramona Singer. Where does the pinot fit in? Do you serve pinot at a clambake? I feel like you would know the proper etiquette involved for such an occasion. ??And on the whole topic of tequila: tequila lime chicken?

I mean. I just. Okay, look. Can’t we marinate me in my own booze before I have to go and baste a bird with it? I paid for it; the chicken didn’t. That said, um, it sounds like the greatest chicken recipe ever? ??Then there is the issue of your ingredients. In every single recipe, you mention using good olive oil or good chicken stock or good wine and while I really could make a crack here about how I never met a wine I didn’t think was good, we’ll leave it for a later date.

I mean, yes, I understand that sometimes, some foods are better quality than others — a Sprinkles cupcake, per se, as opposed to one of the generic ones you can get at any old supermarket bakery section, replete with saccharine whipped “butterlike” frosting. But do we always have to go shopping at little shops where the owner/proprietor knows us by name and has something put away just for any old occasion that might cross our fancy?

I’m a busy woman. Sometimes, Whole Foods is all I can manage on a good day when it’s the subways aren’t crammed full (though that seems to happen nearly every day in New York from 4:30 to 7 p.m., bank holiday nonwithstanding), and the Union Square greenmarket is always a nice little field trip, but good Christ, woman, I don’t have the time to drive over to the bakery for a fresh baguette, and then to the butcher’s for a few choice tenderloins and a rack of frenched lamb chops. Nor do I have the time to peel forty cloves of garlic for a single recipe, and I will not even begin to try. Not ever. Not even if it’s the favorite dish of whoever I’ve decided to impress and woo — also, your whole theory of calling a chicken dish engagement-worthy makes my ovaries boil over a little with deeply rooted, virulent feminism.

Is this how you convinced Jeffrey to marry you? Also, just wondering, is Jeffrey gay? I mean, really. I watched the entirety of Julie & Julia wondering if the big plot twist was that Stanley Tucci was, in fact, gay, and given your obsession with French food, and the fact that Julia Child herself was a spy for the government, if you’re just the second coming of St. Julia, I officially give up. ??Why do I have such polarizing reactions to your chicken? I feel like this might be a Freudian thing. I’ll look into it.??For the record, if I want a steakhouse steak? I mean, okay, first of all, I would have to eat steak, BUT IF I DID, I will get reservations at Smith & Wollinsky because that is a steakhouse — well, okay, they mentioned in The Devil Wears Prada, and I see the ads sometimes in taxis when I’m running late to work, so I assume it’s a quality joint. I’m just not an expert in this field.

Also, to answer your trademarked question that you’ve plastered everywhere, “How easy is that?” It’s extraordinarily easy to make reservations at a restaurant if I want to eat something particular and don’t give me lip about adding that little homemade touch, please. Please, for the love of everything, I know you built your empire on domesticity, but this brings me back to the point that I just don’t have the freaking time to devote to my kitchen, and to my stove, and my refrigerator while I wait for things to set and prep and flavors to meld and do whatever it is that flavors do.

Also, I feel like I have to ask what your stance is on A1 steak sauce. You make your own, don’t you? From scratch? Either that, or you spend fifteen bucks on a bottle when a four dollar bottle will more than suffice. There’s a recession going on, Ina. I have to scrimp somewhere.??

I also feel like people like your lifestyle and the Hamptons in general because they were told to like it. The way everyone wanted to live on East Egg instead of West Egg, or how the Beverly Hillbillies migrated from 90210 to West Hollywood, and finally to Silverlake and the Hills and God knows where else they can film a pointless and IQ-draining reality show. What happens in the Hamptons? Do people just drink wine and have themed parties and wear madras plaid and boat shoes and have last names like Forbes?

Maybe you’ve cracked a code I haven’t yet. But every time I think of the Hamptons, I just think of that time Carrie Bradshaw met Jack Berger (great last name, great sandwich, really a shitty man and a low point in the show), and she was really six-months pregnant Sarah Jessica Parker complet avec really questionable hairdo, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And for that, I cannot really jive with your lifestyle. I can understand it’s beautiful, and there’s something idyllic and untouched, but even Martha Stewart had her fall. And the part of me that can’t stand lemon curd and just wants to drink corporate sponge Starbucks and not small-batch specialty roast until the day I die, that part can’t wait to see yours happen, if only because it will make me feel more validated for not really having the time to cook such dishes, or even know how, let alone know how to pair them with the perfect bottle of chilled Inzolia from 2006.??But your idea to absolutely smother something as innocuous as tomatoes in cheese and bread and butter? Genius. Brilliant. I applaud you, ma’am, and warmly. It’s like pizza, deconstructed. It’s like sex. It’s like I saw God.??

And so, I am a fan.??

Yours very truly,
Ella TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

  • http://www.facebook.com/careuhsellxo Angela Joyce

    I love Ina Garten and this article. I remember sitting with my grandma asking her to turn on Barefoot Contessa. 

  • Tara

    I wish Ina Garten was my grandma.

  • Guest

    Ina Garten turned down a 6 year old’s Make-A-Wish Foundation request to cook a meal with her, twice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1031670552 Angel Hu

    Ella, you radiate genuine hilarity and love for Ina; I admire that. 

  • Sarahreynolds00

    “I didn’t even know you could make a margarita from scratch…” lol

  • Tlmargol

    Precisely my sentiments…hilarious! If you really want to feel like a failure, try making her chicken soup.

  • Anonymous

    This was fantastic. One of my favorite TC pieces in a while. 2 points and the ball.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1084080036 Lee Tilghman

    Why be such a hater? and peeling 40 cloves of garlic will take you about 5 minutes. obviously you dont care that much about quality cooking. ina is meant for high quality, slow paced rich women. 

  • Jeffrey

    “Is this how you convinced Jeffrey to marry you? Also, just wondering, is Jeffrey gay?”
    … so i’m definitely not the only one who thinks this.

  • Guest

    BUT WHY IS SHE CALLED THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA

  • Jredona

    I DON’T love the way she says “UGCH” when she’s loving something she’s made. It’s a gutteral throaty sound that means “I just threw up a little in my mouth.”

    Hilarious article grappling with perceived perfection and what that means to the rest of us.

  • http://www.about.me/tanyasalyers Tanya Salyers

    Jeffrey is so adorable.

  • Guest

    jeff is def not gay, he is married to her …..

  • A.Dub

    Ina’s Outrageous Brownies.  Do yourself a favor and make them.  Absolute best brownies of my life.  Those with whom I shared them agreed.  

  • Kim

    hilarious and oh so true. its a love-hate thing when i watch barefoot contessa. but i really do like her and the way her clothes are always really well pressed. lol… this was a good read, thanks ella. you should be proud of yourself! :-)

  • http://twosisterstwokitchens.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/this-weeks-miscellany-sixnine/ this week’s miscellany (six/nine). | sister kitchens.

    […] alone know how to pair them with the perfect bottle of chilled Inzolia from 2006.” — An Open Letter to Ina Garten from Thought […]

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