I have lived in the South long enough now, and I’ve made enough collards and grits, to feel like slightly less of a poser when saying it, so I’m going to say it again.
Ina has done it again.
She’s publishing another book, due out in October.
Aren’t they adorable?
This always seems to happen. I get close to the 100-recipes-remaining-benchmark, get lazy (i.e., have a baby, get a full-time job, take on too many students, chair a committee, move twice in six months, whatev), and stall. I stall because quite frankly, there are some recipes in that bottom 100 that I just don’t want to cook. Some of them sound delicious to me (mussels!), but Neil wouldn’t touch them, and I always think I’m going to cook them when he goes out of town. Then, when he does go out of town, the toilet overflows and someone gets an ear infection and the dog breaks her tail, and no mussels for me. I have been known to hire a babysitter just so I can take a nap on those weekends. (Seriously. How do the children, the dogs, and the house all know when one parent leaves the home ZIP code? How do they know??) Most of those last 100 or so recipes, though, just sound like someone put on her bad idea stretchy pants. Kitchen Clambake? Oh hell no. Blue cheese and pears? OMG, stop it. I guess you could say I self-sabotage somewhere along the way, when I start to get closer to my goal. But really … I think I just get bored and a little overwhelmed, and yes, somewhat disgusted.
A new cookbook means that I’ll be adding about another 100 recipes or so to the “to be cooked” list. Oy vey Maria. Holy fancy butter on a piece of artisan toast. But still … I’m excited for the new cookbook. The last few Barefoot Contessa books have been phenomenal, and maybe she’ll even come to Houston again so I can gush all over her (again). Chances are, most of them will be food that I’ll want to cook, and I’ll have something new to try. I have another six months (give or take) before the new release to whittle that list down to 100 again. I like a challenge. And look at that cake on the cover! And their smiles! What’s not to love? So, yes. I have pre-ordered a copy. I’m excited.
There’s another contingent, though, that is despairing at the idea of “Cooking for Jeffrey,” and not because they’ve set some kind of bizarre goal for themselves. Ugh. How could she? Isn’t she one of us, the modern feminists making our own way, and making our own money? What is UP with that marriage? Why cake? HOW can they still actually LIKE each other? Gross.
Call me naive, or simple, or a pie-eyed Midwestern girl, but I don’t roll my eyes at Ina and Jeffrey together, or the fact that she likes to cook for him. It could all be for show, of course, but the way that she spoke about him when she was in Houston last November made me believe that they have a really good partnership, in the romantic and business senses of that word. Ina gives Jeffrey heaps of credit for gently pushing her outside of her comfort zone, for doing the unglamorous legwork of starting a business, and for supporting her ideas, even when they may have seemed harebrained at the time. He’s a mild-mannered Yale man, and having married my very own mild-mannered Yale man, I would like to see myself in that kind of equation, and I do. Neil is, hands down, my number one fan. He really, truly appreciates the efforts I make in the kitchen and in the world. And dear Lord, we need more appreciation in this world.
Ina began to cook not because Jeffrey or anyone else told her she had to, but because she loves it. He seems to be enjoying the ride along with her. Feminism is about being able to choose our own paths, and I don’t begrudge someone the choice to make a great career out of food and entertaining, or even just baking because they love it. (Contrasted with the poor lady who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic and her husband’s dictates about food, I think we can all agree that we’d choose the Ina/Jeffrey way.) Growing up in the kitchen where my dad was the primary cook, I don’t attach patriarchal over-reaching with preparing good food. And who doesn’t love cake? I hope I never forget the many, many strawberry cakes I made for Ben’s fourth birthday, or the over-the-top banana pudding I made for our last meal with dear friends in Minnesota. Cakes are celebratory food, and a great way to win friends and influence people.
Don’t get me wrong: I understand a little bit of healthy skepticism over Ina, and a wee bit of jealousy over her cooking barn and her gorgeous garden and her outrageously successful career. Would I take all that in trade for my life, with my very own mild-mannered Yale man and our two little Jedis-in-training? Not even for one million perfect layer cakes.