I love Ina Garten; this is no secret. You’ll find a Barefoot Contessa cookbook on just about every shelf in my apartment. I’ve been known to watch reruns of her show on YouTube, and I’ve gone so far as to call her a style icon. I sometimes wish I could pick Jeffrey up and put him in my pocket, but I digress. As much as I adore Ina, I have a bone to pick with her.
More than once, the Contessa has it on record that when she cooks, she follows recipes To. The. Letter. “I follow the recipe every single time I make a recipe. I don’t just throw things in,” she told Buzzfeed News in 2016. A similar sentiment was echoed when she was a guest on the Bon Appétit Foodcast.
Ina, whattt? You never stray from the instructions? Never add parsley instead of cilantro or a pinch more salt? Granted, Garten’s recipes are known for being unfussy, foolproof and practically impossible to ruin—that’s part of her appeal. But as a cook, I feel like this is the total opposite of what cooking should be (baking recipes notwithstanding). I’m a big believer in changing recipes as you see fit, for a few reasons.
Number one: Unless you’re grocery shopping with a recipe in mind, you won’t always have the exact ingredients in your kitchen. I don’t know about anyone else, but there’s nothing less appealing than an emergency grocery run 15 minutes before dinner.