Someone’s in the Kitchen with Ina

Ina Garten's Lemon Chicken Recipe

Just about everyone who cooks has a Julia Child story. How she inspired them, how she entertained them, even how she got them pregnant! When it comes to Julia worship, people practically fainted in her presence with religious fervor. My own Julia story, yet to be revealed, talks about how she gave me great comfort in a time of great pain. But who—all these years after Julia first flickered on TV, instructing us with that warbly hoot-owl voice of hers—is her logical successor?

I’ll tell you who: Ina Garten.

Ina has touched, thrilled, even titillated (not that way!) legions of cooks for the past 14 years with her approachable recipes and her “How easy is that?” commentaries. And while I cook (fabulously, I might add) from a few of her many cookbooks—Barefoot Contessa Parties, Barefoot Contessa in Paris, and Barefoot Contessa at Home—what I hold most dear is a short conversation I had with her years ago, one I’m sure she forgot the next moment. But I replay it in my mind over and over again, like an old bootleg Betamax tape of Star Wars. Read more “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Ina” »

Slow to Warm Up

Crock-Pot Ad

I want to say up front that I’m a longtime hater of slow cookers. Ever since I was a kid in the ’70s, all I ever saw come out of Crock-Pots was brown slop. It all looked alike, it all tasted alike. A decade or so later, after I began to cook, I still looked upon slow cookers as cheating. I saw them as symbols of middle-class consumerism pandering to an increasingly lazy society. (Damn, I should have brought a soapbox.)

With the original Crock-Pot, you were really cooking about as much as Lance Armstrong was really winning. Throwing all the ingredients into a pot, walking away for 12 hours, and expecting genius to spill out was ridiculous. Where was the impeccably timed stirring? The gentle nudging of meat? The careful spooning of broth over vegetables? If I wasn’t cooking as my grandmother and mother did, then I was committing fraud in the first degree. And I wasn’t about to risk a criminal record. Read more “Slow to Warm Up” »

It’s Always Darkest

Early Snowy Morning

Sometimes I think my cat is better than my doctor at prescribing what I need.

Early Wednesday morning, Devil Cat woke me at 3 a.m. wanting to play, as he does every morning when we’re in Connecticut. It was our usual dance number—he leading, me following, of course. First he used his claws to pull himself across the rug—I guess you could call this his floor routine. Then he jumped on the bed and kneaded my chest with his lethal weapons, which he just honed on the rug. When I couldn’t take it anymore, we quickly two-stepped to the bathroom, dancing on each other’s feet, where he figure-eighted between my legs while I winced bleary-eyed into the mirror to see how much blood he’d drawn from my chest. Read more “It’s Always Darkest” »