We're mad at Ina Garten.
The thing that makes (or perhaps, as we'll show in a moment, made) her great is that she's (or perhaps was) classy. While her fellow TV chefs were stripping down for Playboy and encouraging watchers to make Kwanzaa cakes using corn nuts and packaged angel food mix, she kept floating through her show, year after year, cooing tips for home cooking that was refined without being fussy. She wrote cookbooks that sell well and are Garten's personal life always seemed elegant, prosperous and low-key. The former nuclear policy wonk and her successful businessman husband Jeffrey Garten constantly host dinner parties at their sumptuous East Hamptons home. They even have a perfect New Year's ritual!
So the bottom line is that we have pretty high expectations for Ina. Higher, even, than for some other chefs we fundamentally respect, like Mario Batali or Wolfgang Puck, to say nothing of chefs we don't respect, who shall remain nameless. That's why we got so angry when we heard that she had started selling a line of frozen dinners.
The "Barefoot Contessa Sauté Dinners For Two" sell for $8 or $9 a piece at places like Safeway and Wal-Mart and come in flavors such as shrimp scampi and tequila lime chicken. We thought Ina could do no wrong, but that sounds pretty wrong. It's not like she's been untainted by commerce so far -- her books are huge sellers, and she sells mixes for donuts and cakes and the such -- but come on... tequila lime chicken? That's the stuff of Chili's.
The news was first reported at the beginning of February, in Undercurrent News, but we were hoping if we covered our ears for a while, Ina would change her normally infallible mind and call the whole thing off. But the meals were slated to go on sale this past weekend, and, though we haven't tried them ourselves, we fear the worst. Have any of you readers gotten a taste? If so, can you put our fears to the test, and tell us that Ina has managed, despite all the odds, to do frozen meals perfectly? Please?