Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hot Tang

I've been avoiding Ina Garten for 16 years now. It's not that I don't see some similarities. We're both Winters and we share an affinity for a nice chambray to bring out the blue in our eyes. We like hostessing, though here in BFE, all I ever host are the lizards who lurk in the bushes outside my door, and dart in when I open it.  Sometimes a few 10 year-old boys who want Takis and juice show up and gulp a few glasses of whatever I hand them, and run back outside, which is what I really wish the lizards would do as well but they are reptiles and have no manners.

The Barefoot Contessa came out when I was doing private catering which is a nice way to say I was terrible on a line because the PTSD and THE TICKER are a bad combination, and I'd found some nice ladies down in Madison Park who would pay me twice as much for half the work. Lost my street cred, gained a car and a nice collection of Cole Haan loafers. 

It seems like Ina and I would be a perfect fit but I didn't think much of her recipes. All the ladies I worked for and all the girls who stole the boys I wanted to date away from me were instantly smitten with her but I thought she was just ripping off Martha and Lee Bailey and none of their recipes worked anyway so whatever and I'll just save my money for pot, thanks.

She endeavored and you all loved her. Each season brought a better-fitted shirt. I'm sure by now they're bespoke. There is possibly a tailor on Long Island whose entire shop is full of bolts of french cotton in varying shades of indigo, a rotund dressmaker dummy in each corner, waiting for a call "Ina is on The Chew and Meredith next week, she'd like Sky 14 and Bora Bora. Snaps on the 14 and knots for the Bora". And the mice start sewing.

Now that she has 170 million shirts, one for every cookbook sold, she can give it a rest. She can call down to someone and ask for a beverage. I don't doubt that Ina can't make some lemonade, but why would she? She has people for that. I have no people. I make the juice.

I don't buy cookbooks because most of them are awful. Even ones by people I like. I can read a recipe and tell you without trying it if it works or not. It's maybe the only thing I'll brag about besides Abe's cuteness. I'm a really great cook. I have technique. I'm researched in a variety of cuisines and methods from all over the world. I don't need cookbooks for anything but inspiration. My kids wear me out and I just think 'tacos' all the time or Guido Pasta  I look at the pictures in books I check out on library day. I've hardly ever tried a recipe that worked without adjustment and I hate that some crackerjack got paid to be wrong while I sit at home with scaly creatures under my couch.

But you love her. More specifically you love Barefoot Contessa. I get the draw. It's cozy, just like Ina wants it to be. It was one of the first to use pretty pictures and capture the essence of the place it came from. Workman books like China Moon and Silver Palate were useful but boring to look at, Martha's still had that weird 80's pastel vibe and her big cookbooks were like Joy of Cooking. A sliver of photos in the middle of a deep forest of dull teacakes and bean salads. Collectible, but not useful or appealing. Ina was Instagramming in 1999. Every one of those shots is as modern as anything you'd find before last year when we started gong backwards with matte pages and kale and black garlic salads.
And then Eater did a feature and you guys know how I feel about all the stories about food that don't help feed other people whether it be spiritually or really actually get the food inside of their mouths.

You guys went nutty and share-bukkaked all over her. And I didn't get it again. How could some lady who wrote a check for her future and her Lehman Brother of a husband make such smart people act like fools? What is it that makes her so lovable that every single book she churns out with a new kind of butternut squash soup and brownie sells more than the last one?  Look how happy she makes all of you. I want that kind of joy in my life. I want to be converted. And I went to Goodwill on my Friday night date with myself and there it was. Somebody, somewhere let go of a piece of heaven and the cosmos delivered it to me for $1.99. Such a small price to pay for happiness.

I don't want to pick Ina apart, I don't want to judge her but I DO want to see if this book that you hold so near and dear to your hearts is, in fact, any good. At all.

The first thing Ina wants me to do is make a nice glass of lemonade before I peruse her dips and spreads and 32 pages of tidbits about her and Jeffy-baby, who creeps me out a little to be honest. Tiny little hands. Just. No. I'm happy about the lemonade. I've got all four ingredients and don't have to go anywhere. Lemon juice, sugar, ice and water. Blend all ingredients and pour over ice.

Slow your roll, lady. Is the ice an ingredient or is the ice different from the ice I pour it over? This is pretty unclear if a person doesn't know about ratios. Four cups of water is almost too much for a cup of lemon juice so adding an extra cup of ice is going to make it almost tasteless five minutes later.  If it's the third thing listed, it's an ingredient, as far as I'm concerned. If it's the ice you're pouring it over, you save that for the service part of the recipe which comes at the end. Not third.

I did it no ice and it's fine. Still a little watery. Whatever. My hopes aren't dashed. The kids didn't mind and I heated mine up with some rum and more lemon juice.

She and I are making roasted eggplant spread this afternoon. It has a whole red onion which is problematic but I'll try to find a small one and pretend that's what she meant so that we can save the world with our Ina love together.