If Ina Garten were your best friend, you’d drink white wine inside the house, red wine outside, but only when Jeffrey was around. When he isn’t home, which is always, she’d offer you a big snifter of whiskey and you’d sit on top of her amazingly huge countertop while you drank, eating brownies and mac-and-cheese.
If Ina Garten were your best friend, she’d always ask you if the collar on her shirts were popped up properly. You’d always twiddle with the collar, even if it was fine, just to make sure she knew that you knew how seriously she took her collar game.
If Ina Garten were your best friend, you’d offer to cook for her at least once a month. She’d come to your house with Jeffrey and a nice bottle of wine and a nosegay of roses or hyacinths and hydrangeas. She’d ask really loudly, when she walked through the door, “What’s cooking?” and do her Betty Rubble-but-deeper-voiced laugh, and you’d laugh too. Jeffrey would pet your dogs, and then go take a nap on your sofa while the two of you would talk and laugh and cry in the kitchen. Jeffrey would always, miraculously, wake up right when dinner was finished. You’d laugh together about this, too.
If Ina Garten were your best friend, you’d go shopping at all the weird, cute, kitschy stores along the coast. She’d scrunch her nose up at you when you’d point to something really tacky, like a lighthouse wine bottle cooler, but you’d secretly buy it and give it to her for her birthday, just to get her to laugh. She would tell that story again and again at her parties, and TR would roll his eyes, but you wouldn’t mind.
If Ina Garten were your best friend, she’d ask you to come and sleep over on nights when Jeffrey was away. You’d stay in the guest house, and there’d be a pile of clean, fluffy towels on the bed next to a terrycloth robe. There’d be a monogrammed mug on the nightstand with your initials on it, and a copy of your favorite magazine under the mug. She’d leave you a note, “Call me at 10pm” and you would, and she’d say “Meet me in the kitchen,” and you would, and she’d give you a big hug and a kiss and then shove a plate of cookies and a glass of lactose-free milk in front of you. You’d eat and drink while she talked about her latest book project. Around 1am you’d prank call Jeffrey at whatever hotel he was staying at, pretending that you were the hotel manger and that his credit card had been cancelled by his wife, and that he’d have to check out immediately. He’d believe it at first, and then say, “Oh fucking hell, is that you Marissa? Ina?! You motherfuckers!” because he curses like a sailor, and you’d all laugh, and then you’d help her make chicken for him when he comes back.
If Ina Garten were your best friend, you’d come to all of her parties and cookouts and clam bakes and barbecues. You would tell her who ate what, and who refused to eat what, and you’d help her take the leftovers to the neighborhood fire station and the flower arrangements over to the assisted living home, and she’d give you a hug and she’d collapse on her sofa from exhaustion. You’d brush out her hair and pick out a clean outfit for her, put on some good jazz music, and make some breakfast because she’s got a shoot in the morning and she needs the sleep.
If Ina Garten were your best friend, she’d invite you over while she calls up Nigella on Skype to talk about recipes and men and France and television executives, and Nigella would ask you how you were doing. A few days later you and Ina would write her a note telling her how proud you were of her for doing a very brave thing, and she’d text you both back with a thank-you message and there’d be something chocolaty in the mail coming to both of you soon. And there would be, it wouldn’t be just some empty chocolate-promise. You both love Nigella so much.
If Ina Garten were your best friend, she’d tell you which of your friends needed a pick-me-up, and you’d put together something special, like a handmade pillowcase and a crocheted throw blanket, and she’d make food, and you’d bring it over to the friend’s house together. Ina would pay special attention to what you made even though her food is obviously the star of the show, and you’d give the other friend a manicure/pedicure, or walk her dogs, or clean her kitchen, and tell her how much you love her, and then you’d all fall asleep after a movie marathon of When Harry Met Sally (Ina’s choice) and The Three Amigos (your choice) and The Apartment (your friend’s choice), and then you’d all go out to brunch together in the morning.
If Ina Garten were your best friend, you’d try to create a new recipe for her and she’d gamely try it but would come back with about twenty better ideas for it. You’d feel wounded, and you’d probably pout a bit and say something snarky, “Why does anybody cook anything, anyway!” And she’d understand and give you a hug, but also a look, and you’d get over yourself real quick. And she’d say, “I love that you don’t worry about trying to impress me,” and you’d laugh and roll your eyes, and she’d put her hand over her mouth out of embarrassment, and you’d playfully kick her behind. She’d offer you some whiskey and homemade s’mores, and you’d ask her if she’d ever tried that recipe for chicken casserole on the Campbell’s soup can label, and she’d say, “Oh honey.”
Originally posted on my now-defunct blog, Steelwoolens, May 2015. This was an homage to The Toast’s series of pieces “If X were your Y.”