Here are three things I don’t recommend:
- Don’t prepare a dish for guests that you haven’t “road tested.”
- Don’t buy Girl Scout cookies outside your Weight Watchers meeting.
- And don’t go to see Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, speak the night before your colonoscopy.
Now, they aren’t exactly words to live by, but I’ve had experience with all three, most recently with the Contessa. And trust me, the Food Network queen was a helluva lot more entertaining than the colonoscopy prep!
But how could I say no to Ina, and, more importantly, my beloved aunt who is just gaga for Garten?
So, I did the math, reminded Siri to alert me at 9 p.m. to my first dose of magnesium citrate (bleck) and made a pilgrimage to the Providence Performing Arts Center with other Garten groupies.
I feel the need to note that pre-performance in Wayland Square, I looked longingly into the windows of Farmstead, a restaurant where we pined to dine, but settled for an excellent mug of black coffee across the street at Teas and Javas. Sob.
Anyway, I must admit I am a latecomer to the Contessa since I rarely, if ever, watch the Food Network. I knew about her popular Easthampton store, her cookbooks and her nebbishy husband, Jeffrey. But that’s about it.
I felt like an interloper amongst the 3,000+ plus fans, many toting a stack of Ina’s cookbooks, who packed the vintage DownCity theatre for this “Inside the Actors Studio”-like sit down with Ina and her BFF, Al Forno chef/owner Johanne Killeen.
Grilled pizza, grilled pizza, grilled pizza…. Stop it!
The Barefoot Contessa didn’t disappoint. Besides her backstory as a bored White House nuclear policy analyst by day and food enthusiast by night, we learned she got her pilot’s license in 1970 but hasn’t used it “in decades, so everybody’s safe.”
A four-month camping trip through Europe on $5-a-day with Jeffrey (now a professor at Yale School of Management and chairman of his own investment firm) inspired her passions for simple, traditional cooking and baking, she said. She later added the couple gave away their camping equipment after that trip!
Ina also talked about recipe development and how she has “tastes in my head” which send her into the kitchen to whip up something with great flavor.
I have tastes in my head right now, Mrs. Garten. And it’s not Vitamin Water lemonade…
Other interesting Ina info:
– She always listens to music while in the kitchen. Her latest is the soundtrack from the Oscar-winning documentary, “Searching for Sugarman.”
– She’d love to write a cookbook called, “The Only 10 Recipes You Need to Know,” but her publisher doesn’t think it will sell. She believes if you can master 10 recipes, say, one for shortbread — you can bake at least three other variations on the recipe to add to your repertoire. Seems like a bestseller to me. Get with it, Random House.
– Ina thinks Jeffrey, whom she’s known for 50 years, is “always the most interesting person in the room.”
– And finally, words of advice: “If you’ve been cooking all day, your husband cannot appreciate it enough. And it’s not his fault, it’s yours.” True dat, Ina.
And so it went…
At the end, the questions from the audience were disappointing. Although, I thought the query about convection cooking was helpful (drop the temperature down 25 degrees and cooking time by 15 percent, although it varies depending on the oven).
At that point, Siri was buzzing me and I had to body slam my way through cookbook-signing hopefuls in the lobby in order to reach the parking garage. Hey, I had to guzzle that delicious elixir of laxatives and Vitamin Water. I bet some of those women went out for cocktails later. I hate them.
A glutton for punishment, my aunt and I talked about food non-stop up Route 95, my eyes constantly checking the time. Hmm, macaroni and cheese…
When I finally got home – with time to spare — swimming in magnesium citrate and electrolytes, what did I do? I sat down for a marathon of “Barefoot Contessa” episodes!
Ooh, look at that bruschetta with whipped feta and cherry tomatoes… I’m so making those raspberry crumble bars… Ina roasts asparagus like I do… Shut up, Jeffrey. You like everything… WHAT AM I DOING?
Oops, colon calling. Ba-bye, Ina. I’ll love you more tomorrow. Promise.
#barefootcontessa #inagarten #johannekilleen #alforno #PPAC #lauraraposa #colonoscopy