Barefoot Contessa

Ina Garten at a book signing

Ina Garten at a book signing

I came a bit late to the Barefoot Contessa party, but watching The Food Network meant it had to happen sooner or later.

Ina Garten was a White House policy analyst before buying a specialty food store and caterer called Barefoot Contessa. Eventually she sold the store and turned to writing cookbooks and magazine columns before eventually turning up on the Food Network.

I didn’t know all that when I first saw the show, of course.  I think I saw the opening credits first, featuring a fairly typical montage of not just food and people eating, but also Ina walking in her garden and on the beach. Her husband, currently a professor at Yale, is frequently shown on the show as well.

If you watch the show, you’ll know that she’s also fat.  This isn’t commented on, just present.  Nor does she “cast around herself” and only feature other fat people on the show (she frequently has guests on the show).

Like many food shows, there are quirks that can drive you crazy: catchphrases (“so delicious”, “how good is that”, “with the volume turned up”); a distinct filming style; her unabashed Francophilia;  even her standard uniform of slacks and an oversized button down shirt.   But I love how she makes everything look easy.  I’m glad that there’s a fat woman on TV who isn’t constantly talking about dieting and losing weight, who hangs out with friends and is happily married.    I wonder how much of that has to do with her seeing the TV show as a small part of her life (as she mentions in the below news clip).

Now, I haven’t talked with Ina Garten about fat acceptance – for all I know she’s constantly dieting. But it’s nice to see a fat woman who has a life and isn’t ashamed of it!

A few related links:

A Dessert Party at Ina Garten’s

Smitten Kitchen on Ina’s Pecan Squares

16 thoughts on “Barefoot Contessa

  1. I love Ina Garten! Her approach to food is my personal favorite: get the best you can and prepare it in a way that shows it to its best advantage.

    I have two of her cookbooks, and I can guarantee that there is no fat-shaming or diet encouraging in them, either. The recipes are also surprisingly easy and utterly delicious. Her mustard-baked fish is to die for and takes nearly no effort.

    Oh, and Mr. Twistie (who has more food fears than you can shake a stick at) went nuts for her wild rice with grapes and pecans. He never likes fruit in savory dishes, but he adored that one!

  2. Ina Garten is my absolute favorite Food Network show! I have made her Panzanella numerous times throughout the year…..that dish is my “taste of summer” whenever I need a reminder that we DO have summers here in the NW. That recipe also turned me on to the glory that is homemade croutons…Heaven!

    I have read that she only has her “real” friends on the show. A number of celebrities have tried to be a guest and she always turns them down. How’s that for integrity? Didn’t she also have some kind of partnership with Martha Stewart? If I’m remembering right, she catered with her at some point in her career.

    Hands down, she has the most unpretentious show on Food Network. Her quiet voice and ever present smile gives me the confidence to try her dishes….and seeing an average body type personality on TV who never ever fusses about her weight or use good/bad descriptors when talking about ingredients….is so very refreshing.

    • I love her too. She’s so relaxed and the show is delightfully peaceful, and the dishes she makes are so “doable” without ridiculous hard-to-get ingredients. Her husband seems like a sweetheart too. Nothing pretentious about her, you are so right. She loves what she does, loves her husband, her friends and life. Good for you, Ina. God Bless.

  3. My son thinks Ina has a rather boring personality, but she is a lovely woman who cooks beautiful food. I like her & am glad that she is not wont, as much of the Food Network people (Rachael Ray in all caps, btw) to label food ‘good’ or ‘bad’, talk about how ‘sinful’ it is, or tell us that some meal she is cooking is ‘figure-friendly’ or ‘guilt-free’. I get the distinct impression that she is much too busy living life & enjoy food, her friends, & her beloved husband to worry about her weight much, & that, even if she doesn’t know much about fat acceptance, she does seem to know that life is about a lot more than obsessing over every mouthful of food & the size & shape of one’s body.

    She does, however, have the distinct advantage of great financial privilege, so I am unable to cook everything she makes, & occasionally she does seem unaware that we are not all able to have lobster any time or pay $20 or more for a bottle of ‘good vanilla.’ She is a bright, talented, seemingly genuinely nice woman & it is a good to occasionally see someone around my size who is so visible.

    I love Paula Deen, who is warm, funny, earthy, & loves foods like butter, cream, & mayonnaise. She does’t often cook light, but sometimes does seem to show a little guilt about her love of ‘bad’ foods, as well as having more than a few misconceptions, such as that bananas are ‘fattening’ & that she would somehow be a better person if she liked apples more & bananas less. I think she gets a great deal of very critical email, & sometimes she stands up to them &, with her humor lets them know that she is not changing her cooking for them. Other times, however, she does show that she accepts the cultural ideas about food & fat, health, etc., & apologizes in a way for the fact that she & her husband Michael do not lose weight…”We just love good food too much to be able to give it up.” But she is miles ahead of most of the Food Network crowd.

  4. I credit Ina Garten for helping teach me to cook. I spent the summer of 2001 learning to cook while searching for a job post-college (my parents were gracious enough to eat the attempts without too much complaint). I bought her first cookbook that summer on a recommendation from the Martha Stewart show, and it was love. I still use that book regularly- in fact, we made the crabcakes for dinner last night. The split pea soup pages are spotted and wrinkled from overuse. I’ve converted so many people to brussels sprouts using her recipe from that book that I’ve lost count. I love her show- she seems so relaxed and calm, and so comfortable and happy in her skin and her life. I also love the complete lack of food-moralizing. She seems to celebrate food rather than declare an uneasy truce with it.

  5. Barefoot Contessa is my fave Food Network show. I love Ina and her hubby too. He always looks so excited to see her (and vice versa). They always look like they can’t wait for the filming to be over so they can “devour” each other. LOL

    Yes, they are financially well off and she uses expensive ingredients. However, I think the heart of the show is her love of living the best life you can and sharing it with people you really love. You can do that regardless of your financial situtation.

  6. I love Ina Garten. I love her recipes and the fact that she looks and acts so real. It’s obvious that they are well off (hello, Hamptons house), but she still makes easy food, that is easy to entertain with. I have several of her recipes that I use.

  7. What I love about Ina is that she’s a home cook in the tradition of Julia Child and Dorie Greenspan. Her books are as good a read as they are a resource for recipes. I just appreciate that so many recipes she writes down come from playing around and her whole aesthetic is the minimal ingredients to make something delicious. Also she has great advice for those of us who are just starting out going so far as to tell us to become an expert in a few recipes and then learn new ones. I appreciate her sensuality, she’ll talk about how good her kitchen smells as she’s cooking and about the different textures she wants in the dish as well as the taste and how good it looks.

  8. I love the Barefoot Contessa! She’s probably my favorite Food Network personality, because she’s just so chill. And it’s funny, I was just telling a co-worker that I wished my she was my mom, then I read her Wikipedia page and saw that she and I have so many similarities in our life paths it’s scary. We both studied fashion design until seeing how superficial it was, then went on to economics and government jobs…which I want to do until I have enough money to start my own business.

    I use downgraded versions of her ingredients out of money and/or convenience but I love her recipes nonetheless. It’s a really relaxing TV show too!

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  10. I had the pleasure of meeting Ina Garten this evening. 10/11/11 at 1770 House in East Hampton, NY. I bought her a cosmo and she came over to thank me. Of course, I fell apart crying. She is my idol. It was a lovely experience. I was shocked at how small she is. She cannot weigh over 150. Very small and very pretty.

  11. I love Ina her warm personality down to earth style I have learned alot from her cooking shows and her reciepe’s are easy tasty and plate well she gives you the whole picture table setting glasses to use flowers what else could you ask for… My husband and I joke all the time because I consider myself the Barefoot Contessa in my home

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