So, many people may wonder how my love affair with Ms Garten started. This is where I get all Sophia Petrillo on you. Picture it, Dudley, West Midlands, July 26 2009. My 29th birthday. I awake fuzzy from a night on the town (Birmingham, not Dudley. I have higher standards than that). I crawled down stairs, Pete still asleep upstairs and my mother and father watching the Gardening and DIY hours on QVC, in a bid to further demonstrate the amount of plastic crap they can buy in order to potentially shave off forty minutes of the time spent undertaking manual tasks around the home. Coffee in hand, paracetomol in pocket, I picked up their Sky remote and browsed the selection of channels that our bargain basement package didn’t have. And there it was. A programme named Barefoot Contessa my mum had said she liked.
To be honest it was a distinctly average episode, not one where there was anything you thought that you needed to record it or search for the recipe online. If you are a connoisseur of all things East Hampton, it was the one where Ina, her friend Michael the florist and potentially Miguel (can’t recall accurately) went and decorated their friends home for Christmas and provided them a basket of Holiday goodies. I do remember she made a tasty looking granola, and some white hot chocolate with grand marnier which sounded a bit sickly to me. But it just spoke to me all the same. Here was a woman, articulate, bubbly, like an non-ironic Dawn French with a Cuisinart food processor. Friendly, obviously one of most staunch supporters of the LGBT community due to the sheer number of gay men and lesbians she has around her, this was a woman after my own heart. Like the type of aunt you would have loved to have, or woman from work you absolutely love to pieces. Indeed, Ina Garten is someone I aspire to have in my life, if only via my bookshelf, iPad and forever in my heart. Ina represented to me that nostalgia that I sometimes think I make up in my minds eye. Those memories that are forever autumn and winter, forever darkening afternoons with a gas fire on medium, the oven on full and my mum and I making rock cakes or a Victoria Sandwich, whisking away with a handheld electric beater.
I think that’s what nostalgia is. It’s remembering a million flawed memories, breaking them into pieces, taking out the crap and piecing the good bits back together. Ina does that it spades. Her kitchen cupboards never get splattered with cake mix or slightly grubby finger marks mid baking, her sink never looks backed up with pots that Jeffrey keeps promising to do. She never starts baking then realizes that she forgot to get bicarbonate of soda because she thought she had seen some in the back of the cupboard but that was hundreds and thousands. And that’s one of my favourite lessons from Ina. Sometimes it’s important to forget about the misery and doldrums of life. Cake and hydrangea’s and a fool proof roast chicken recipe surely mean there is nothing to be miserable about.