I watch Ina almost every day. I absolutely love my job as a teacher, and the fact that it is mentally stimulating. That being said, by the end of the day I crave a period of transition from being hyper-aware and constantly engaged, to enjoying and soaking in the remainder of the day. I get home from work, prepare a snack (or start dinner, depending on what time it is) and fire up my DVR. Every day I am greeted by at least two and sometimes as many as five episodes of The Barefoot Contessa. It doesn't matter how many times I have seen the episode, I become engrossed. Ina's calm demeanor, humorous anecdotes, and incredibly insightful tips and explanations both captivate and calm me. I love that she is a bit messy in her cooking, I love that she is both a teacher and a learner, and I love that she understands that in the process of breaking bread with friends, the important part is the time spent with friends. I really love that she is living her passion, and was willing to take a risk and totally change her life to find what made her happy. Oh yeah, I also love her food.
I am not a "great cook." Like many, I have certain dishes that I do well, but it has been a slow evolution from frozen dinners in the early post-college days, to actually roasting vegetables. I find myself turning to Ina again and again. Anytime I am asked to bring a dish somewhere, I immediately search her index of recipes. They are always incredibly easy to follow, and though they may not always turn out as perfectly as hers, they always taste fantastic. I have never had a bad experience. I love, love, love to entertain and constantly find Ina bailing me out of the mundane chip and dip routine. I've never thought to ask my friends if they prefer "apple cake tatin" to nachos and cheese- but no one has ever complained!
While following recipes is perfectly fine what I really strive for is to be able to cook intrinsically- to just know what goes together. Beyond that I'd like to know (without having to resort to the google) what it is to julienne, de-glase, and saute. I mean I think I know what these things are, but I'd like to be more confident. I have thought about taking a cooking class, and maybe someday I will, but for now I'm turning again to Ina. I read somewhere that she taught herself to cook using Julia Child's cookbook. At first I thought I would do that, but upon opening it I was completely overwhelmed. Plus, somebody already did that, and they made it a major motion picture. It seemed a little cliche and really not my style anyways. Then it dawned on me, why not go right to the source? If Ina is self-taught, maybe she could teach me?
So here goes, I'm going to cook my way through all of Ina's cookbooks. I'm going to start at the beginning with her first book, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and go right through to Make It Ahead. I'm excited to try all of her recipes, but I'm also excited to see what I learn along the way. Ina provides great tips and tricks throughout her books. I will also continue to watch her show, read her blog, and really pay homage to all things Ina.
I have no timetable for completing this, and I don't plan on going in order within the books, but I do plan on sharing my experiences as I go.This is an ode to the woman that helped me transform from a twenty-something who stored things in her oven and routinely drank $6 bottles of wine, to a woman who appreciates a good nibble of cheese, simple deliciousness, and of course cooking with "a good wine", you know- one that I would drink ;). She has made me an appreciative eater. Now if I can just get the cooking part down...
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