October 1, 2009 marked the inauguration of this blog. At that time, I lived in a little house on a lovely street in a sweet town in Minnesota, with my husband of (then) almost six years, our beautiful little boy, and two dogs. Since then, I have written about 650 Ina Garten recipes (and a handful of others), bid goodbye to one dog, birthed another beautiful little boy, sold two houses, moved to Texas, got another dog, celebrated another six years of marriage to my wonderful husband, and logged countless hours at the dishwasher. It has been a great six years.
My very favorite thing about this little project is the connection it has helped me make to other people. It is an instant conversation-starter at parties – one lady told me last night “I wish I was your husband!” (Um. Me, too.) It has given us reasons to try things we might not otherwise have tried. And it has given me an outlet and an audience when I didn’t know I needed one. Thank you, readers, for that.
It’s only appropriate that I started the blog in October. For some reason, the month of October has occasionally marked a series of painful, difficult transitions, but also the hopeful new beginnings of fresh starts. The best thing in our family that happened in October was the day that Neil and I married in 2003, in an historic church on the Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, Virginia. The night before the wedding, as family started pouring in from all over the country and the wedding-day jitters were starting to seep in, I sat in the entryway of the parish hall and cried real tears.
“What’s wrong?” the sweet lady at the front desk asked me.
“I’m too lucky. I’m not good enough for him. WHAT IS HE THINKING? I’m not good enough for him. I’m not going to be good enough for him.” (This *might* be because my dad had told me not to let Neil get his eyes checked before the wedding, in case he would change his mind if he got a good look at me. My family is horrible. It might also have been the legions of people telling me how VERY LUCKY I was to be marrying Neil. Even though I am extremely fortunate to be married to Neil, don’t ever say this to a bride. It has the very strong implication that the groom scooped her up from the gutter, and she’d still be there if it weren’t for him.)
The sweet lady at church, who was one of Neil’s number one fans, rapidly became my cheering section. “Oh, now. Yes you are good enough for him. He is so lucky to have you. He is so happy. You are the best thing for him.” She didn’t say “Buck up, buttercup,” although I’m sure she probably wanted to. She didn’t say, “I always wondered what he saw in you,” which is apparently what half of the rest of the world was thinking. She looked at me, and she told me I was worth every bit of love he was showing me. And thank God I believed her. (Note to self: be that sweet lady at church. Say nice things to people. You never know when they’re going to remember it a dozen years later.)
And so began twelve years (and counting) of dinners and parties and breakfasts and leftovers. I saved Neil from a life of condiments-added-to-fast-food-disguised-as-cooking, and he has saved me from … myself. I still look across our coffee cups in the morning, over spelling lists and lunch boxes and randomly strewn lego pieces, to Neil, and I’m grateful.
I’m grateful for these two little scholars, who LOVE their school so much that we have to pry them away from second grade and preK every day.
I’m grateful for meaningful work and volunteer opportunities, which have brought us into churches and offices and Sunday School classrooms, and also into the lives of my piano students every day. I get to meet the most interesting people through the work I’ve done, in ways I could not have imagined six or twelve years ago. I’m grateful for whatever weirdo paired food and music together to make up this bizarre chart. I love it. (Also: pizza casserole sounds disgusting.)
I’m also grateful for friends who invited us over one weekend when Neil was out of town at a man retreat. (It was a men’s retreat, but man retreat sounds funnier.) I made this tiramisu (from Barefoot Contessa Family Style), and it was every bit as good as it looks. In true Ina form, it has enough rum to give you a good buzz, but enough espresso to sober you up for the drive home.
Six years in, I’ve learned a lot about cooking, but also I’ve learned a lot about how to avoid those 150 or so recipes that are hanging on, just waiting to be made. The idea of a Kitchen Clambake right now just makes me want to take a nap. Hang in there – I’ll get to those. In the meantime, look for some other features to appear to round out the recipe offerings. Texas Tuesday? Midwest Monday? Smitten Saturday? Whatever Wednesday? Ottolenghi October? Don’t think you’ll be rid of me as soon as I’m done with Ina – there’s just way too much left in me to stop now.