Ina Garten Thinks This Ingredient Is B.S. (and We Kinda Do Too)

ina garten wearing a black shirt and cream colored scarf
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It’s no secret that we think Ina Garten is the queen of the kitchen. Chicken Marbella, Barefoot Contessa style? Already on the table. If she tells us to cash out our 401k to buy the “good” vanilla, we’re already signing a check to the IRS (kidding...). When Ina says “jump,” we ask, “how high?” So when the author of Go-To Dinners revealed that even she questions the purpose of the most mystifying ingredient known to cooking—namely, the bay leaf—you can bet your ass we’re already tossing ours in the trash. (Again, kidding, but only kind of this time.)

Earlier this month, in an interview with David Remnick for The New Yorker, she was asked by a reader:

“Dear Ms. Garten,

About 10 years ago, I read a short story in Harper’s about which I remember nothing, not the title, the author or the plot, except for a scene in which a character fishes a bay leaf out of a bowl of soup and flicks it away, and he tells his dining companion, ‘bay leaves are B.S.’ Ever since then I’ve been nagged by the question, are bay leaves B.S.? Whenever I put them in anything, I can’t tell what effect they have. Am I using them wrong? Also, is it true that they should be kept in the freezer?”

To which Ina replied, in typical nonchalant Ina fashion:

“I really don’t know the answer to this. I will say that I always also wonder whether bay leaf makes a difference. There are a couple of things that I use bay leaves in and I’ve always wanted to make them without the bay leaves to see if it made a difference, and I never have, so I’m not sure.”

Can we just say: We’ve wondered the same thing every time a recipe calls for a bay leaf. The things are dusty, dry and nearly devoid of any aroma, so how could they possibly impart flavor into a dish? If Ina is calling B.S.—and it sounds like she is at least implying it—then we’re leaving our sorry bay leaves in the dust. Who needs ’em.

As for the second part of the question, we think we can take a stab at an answer: If the bay leaves don’t add any flavor, does it really matter where you store them?


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...