It was 1999 and I had recently taken on a part-time job working at Williams Sonoma. I was straightening up all the cookbooks and came across the newly released "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook". It was Ina's first cookbook (unbeknownst to me at the time). I gave it a flip through and saw this picture. 'You have got to be kidding me! Are you for real?' I, of course, bought the cookbook and am happy to say that I have used it many, many times over the years. I think it's one of her most-used books, along with her Comfort Foods cookbook. I love that there are photos for nearly every recipe. And Ina, she's just soo likable. She's lovable. I love her. Ina, if things ever stop working out with Jeffrey, give me a holler. I will happily move in to your unbelievably gorgeous home in the Hampton's. Her TV show began airing in 2002, and I couldn't have been happier. All the recipes she demo's on her show, can be found in her cookbooks. In preparation for today's post, I thought I would do a little research on Ms. Garten. So with no further ado, some interesting facts:
- Ina worked in the White House as a government aid and budget analyst which entailed writing the nuclear energy budget and policy papers on nuclear centrifuge plants for then-Presidents Gerald Ford & Jimmy Carter. What a smartie pants.
- Meanwhile, she was buying, refurbishing, and reselling homes for profit. The funds from these sales gave Garten the means to make her next purchase, the Barefoot Contessa store in 1978 in the Hampton's. Geez- she's already amazing.
- Under the guidance of her husband, Garten reemerged in 1999 with her attention turned to the publishing industry. She carried on with the Barefoot Contessa name in her 1999 bestseller, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook which sold over 100,000 copies it's first year.
- Not long after the success of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Barefoot Contessa Parties!, Garten was approached by Food Network with an offer to host her own television cooking show. She rejected this proposal several times, until the London-based production company responsible for the popular Nigella Bites was assigned to the deal. Barefoot Contessa has approximately 1 million viewers tuned in per episode, and has posted some of Food Network's highest ratings.
- Martha Stewart played a large role in the early development of Garten's career, championing her store, recipes, and home décor, going as far as to feature both Garten's home and one of her bakery confections on 1998 and 2001 covers of her popular magazine, Martha Stewart Living. After years of being friends and co-workers, however, the two became bitter rivals when Stewart attempted to take credit for one of Garten's recipes (Martha, you dirty dog!) They have reportedly mended their relationship (phew); Stewart wrote a foreword for The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, and Garten penned several columns on entertaining and cooking for Stewart's magazine
- After much critical acclaim and high sales of her first three cookbooks, she went on to write the best-selling Barefoot in Paris and several columns for O, The Oprah Magazine. She also serves as the entertaining, cooking, and party planning consultant for the magazine House Beautiful, and features a monthly Garten column entitled "Ask the Barefoot Contessa"
- In 2005, she announced that she had signed a three-year contract with Food Network to continue her cooking show, and will release two more cookbooks following Barefoot Contessa at Home.
- She has also been approached several times to develop her own branded magazine, line of furniture, set of signature cookware, and chain of boutiques, but has declined these offers, stating she has no interest in further complicating her life (This is why I so adore Ina). Between 2004 and 2005, Barefoot in Paris sold almost 400,000 copies and rose to the #11 slot on the New York Times bestseller list.
There. Feel like you know her a little better? Trust me, if you are new to Ina, you'll love her. Those already familiar with her know what I'm talking about. As I mentioned earlier, my favorite and most used book of Ina's is her first, self-titled book. Maybe it's because I've had it for 8 years and gotten some really good mileage out of it. I love the 'comfort food/family style' book a lot. "Parties" has some really good recipes. I haven't given 'Barefoot in Paris' as much use as I have her other books. I just made my first recipe from it this week, Lentil Sausage Soup, and of course, she didn't disappoint. The recipe can be found below. I just got her newest book, which is total eye-candy, but haven't had a chance to dive into any of the recipes yet.
If you are looking for some really wonderful recipes/cookbooks, definitely head straight to your nearest bookstore and pick something up from The Barefoot Contessa. It doesn't hurt that she is utterly adorable, personable, and I think everyone would just love to have her as a best friend. Here's to you , Ina! Thanks for years & years of wonderful recipes! I think you are pretty terrific.
Wow- 3 posts in one day. I think I deserve a medal!
Have a lovely weekend!