Everything was pretty normal about my college experience. The only uncommon thread of typical college life was the fact that I happened to have three friends and roommates who genuinely shared the same appreciation for the Food Network.
During my senior year of college, background ‘study sound’ for us was all the clichés of the Food Network: the musings of Giada De Laurentiis overemphasizing her Italian accent in cheese pronunciations, chef Anne Burrell grunting at the sight of pork chops, Rachel Ray exhausting the term ‘smell-o-vision’, and most dear to our hearts, Ina Garten truly showing the world a series of ‘how easy is that?’
Despite other irresponsible habits in college, we unconsciously left our TV on and tuned to the Food Network 24/7 (of course our parents were still paying the bills then….). But at some point, our class schedule actually began to revolve around the rotation of the network. You were lucky if you got home early enough from class for back-to-back Barefoot Contessa episodes in the early afternoon. If Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives was playing when you arrived home, you likely had a long day and Guy Fieri was your last temptation to quit studying for the night.
Since these celebrity chefs consumed such a large portion of my free time, it was hard not to be curious about how similar their personalities are in real life versus on television.
That brings me to the time I met Ina Garten.
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon last summer when two friends and I decided to head to one of the local farmers markets “out east”(as a native Long Islander, out east is how we refer our trip to the pristine shores on the Hamptons). As we started to browse for some fresh heirloom tomatoes and handpicked blueberries, I spotted Ina. I had to look twice to make sure it was her; she looked so at home among the other local Hamptonites, so at ease in her natural element. Other shoppers were minding their business, fixated on choosing the best head of lettuce. I tried to act uninterested, but instead I creepily followed her from a few feet behind.
Her husband Jeffrey was right by her side as they finished paying for their selection of produce and fresh cut sunflowers. I didn’t want to disturb the true Barefoot Contessa in her all authentic element, but how could I not say hi?
I turned to my friend Liz – one of my roommate’s during our glory days of mimicking Ina’s sayings – and we agreed we had to at least try and say hello.
Ina and Jeffrey were heading off, about to pass us on the way to their car and I finally blurted out something along the lines of: “Hi Ina! I just wanted to say we are huge fans and we watched your show all through college!”
She was normal and sweet, as expected, and shook our hands and thanked us for watching the show. She turned to her left and said: “This is my husband Jeffrey.” I laughed inside (and out loud moments later) because obviously I know your husband Jeffrey and that you make him a roast chicken every Friday night and that he loves your homemade brownies you used to make him in college and when he comes back from a business trip, you always have dinner options waiting for him. But yes, it was nice to meet you Jeffrey.
We chatted for another minute, expressed one more time what big fans we were, and then Ina and Jeffrey wandered off to their mini cooper, hand in hand. It was the real deal.
Did Giada De Laurentiis’ daughter Jade really love pancetta at age 2? Does Melissa D’Arabian actually feed her family of four on only 10 dollars a night? Does Rachael Ray ever cook a meal that takes over 30 minutes? It’s possible, but I can’t personally confirm just yet.
Does Ina Garten really drive around the Hamptons in a mini cooper shopping at local markets so she can host gatherings for all of friends and family? Yes, she absolutely does.
How easy was that?