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Television: Food Network: Ina Garten Is Back

After a very long and agonizing lull, Ina Garten, gourmet queen of the Hamptons, is back with a new season of brand new Barefoot Contessa episodes. By the looks of it, Rachael Ray is back with a new season, and they’ve added Simply Delicioso to their lineup. It’s not Rick Bayless, but for the Latino-inspired foodies it will do.

For me, the Food Network boils down to three ladies, all brunettes, all expert chefs and all great company. Ellie Krieger is my favorite nutritionist. She brings revolutionary tips on her Healthy Appetite series and has turned me on to such epiphanies as “eating the rainbow,” that is, a vegetable or fruit of every available color, like blueberries, red peppers and bananas, not all together of course, and frozen grapes. She’ll show you how to maintain the flavor by using her trademark principle that “nothing is off limits.”

Like Krieger, the hilarious Nigella Lawson also brings her lifestyle onto her show Nigella Feasts. The very British and famously busty Lawson passionately loves every last ingredient she slops into the pan or bowl. It is her carefree and sometimes careless approach that we viewers love. She is the queen of “a little of this and a little bit of that.” She once cut an inch of fat off of a pork chop and fell so deeply in love with it she vowed to fry it up and eat it as a midnight snack, which of course, she did, closing the show with a shot of her sneaking down to the fridge to eat the fried thing. No one in their right mind would ever do such a thing; somehow Nigella Lawson gets away with it.

Both Krieger and Lawson’s shows are not easy to find. Without a DVR, I would probably never catch them. Luckily we don’t live in a live TV age anymore.

Much easier to find is Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa, probably my own personal favorite of all of them. Ina Garten lives in a world that simply can’t exist for most of us. She lives in the Hamptons with her husband Jeffrey (it’s scary that I know this information, I know), has her own herb garden and flower garden. Her kitchen is to die for, of course. Garten’s friends, by the looks of it mostly gay men, do lots of great things around town. Some own wine shops or flower shops. Some are artists or writers. They often bring things for Ina and she repays them by cooking a “fabulous” meal.

She once cooked a whole meal for a crew of men refurbishing an old lighthouse. Garten began life as a wife who loved to throw dinner parties. She mastered the art of cooking mostly on her own, but found herself yearning for more. She ended up buying a small gourmet shop in the Hamptons, which she turned into a wildly successful one she ended up calling Barefoot Contessa, hence the show’s name.

The funny thing about her is that you wouldn’t immediately peg her for a woman who would end up on TV. But it isn’t her looks so much as her warmth and humor and cooking talent, lest we forget, that make her such an engaging personality.

You couldn’t live on Ina’s diet and live very long. But what you would lose in length of life you would almost make up for in enjoyment. Sometimes our American lives are too imprisoned by fear of, well, everything. Food porn at its best, as with these three chefs, is good for the soul. Or, as Ina is fond of saying after dumping cream and a pound of butter into a dish, “Now how bad can that be?”

The schedules for these programs can be found by visiting foodnetwork.com.

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