Photo by Ben Fink.
Ina Garten, sometimes known as the Barefoot Contessa, has been on the East End for over 35 years. She discusses her current work and her involvement in an upcoming fundraiser for the EAC Network Suffolk County Child Advocacy Center at the Pat & Mary Bagnato Place for kids (CAC).
By Mara Certic
Between cooking shows, what have you been working on recently?
I have a book coming out in October, it’s called “Make it Ahead,” it’s all about not just things that are okay to make in advance but also things that are better made in advance. And right now I’m working on my 10th book. I’m making rum raisin ice cream and chocolate hazelnut gelato in my test kitchen today.
Where do you get your inspiration for new recipes?
I always think you can’t come up with new ideas sitting at home all alone. So I go to markets in France and I talk to friends, I go to restaurants and read books. You just never know where the ideas are going to come from. I’ll read a newspaper article about ice cream and then I’m like “Hmm, I’d really like to make gelato,” and then I think about what my favorite kind would be. The difference between ice cream and gelato is that gelato is more milk than cream, whereas ice cream is more cream than milk. So I just play around with the difference. It’s a fun science experiment, but with dessert. I used to be in science, so that’s my interest. I used to work on nuclear energy policy in the White House—it’s a long distance to travel from that to what I’m doing now, but it’s basically the same interest in science.
How did you get involved in CAC?
It started at the store. Katie Beers worked for me at the store; she came to East Hampton when she was 10 and she started working for me at the store as soon as she was old enough to. And I just adored her, I still do. And so I know she’s very involved in this and she asked if I would do a benefit and I said absolutely yes.
What does the CAC do?
First, it’s a safe place for kids to go if they’d have issues, problems with violence and abduction—like Katie, which was just such a horrific, terrible case. But I also see how with such a loving, supportive environment and very quickly, it’s just astonishing to see how’s Katie grown up to be such a strong person. And it really had to do with the people around her and the organization, the support she had from the state and the therapists. It was just extraordinary to me how someone could survive that—not just that they could survive it, but survive it and thrive. And the CAC really provides a place for kids like that, which is so critical. I mean, when we’re children we think that that’s how the world is, we need an adult to say “No, the world’s not bad, and I’m going to help you heal.” And that’s really Katie’s story, it’s an extraordinary story of overcoming the most horrific odds and becoming a strong person who’s an advocate for other children. I think they really give children everything that they need to come out of this hole. They have therapists, they have a legal department, they have police departments, they have child services, they have medical staff—they have all those things that kids need to reorient to their thinking to realize that they can actually move on from this and not be crippled by it.
What is the event that you’re hosting for the CAC?
Well, it’s a cocktail party on Friday, July 25, from 4 to 6 p.m., people will come to my house in East Hampton. They can wander around the gardens and see the kitchen where we write cookbooks and we’ll have cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and it’ll be fun.
Apart from your relationship with Ms. Beers, why do you think that this is an important organization to support?
The organization is made up of grown-ups who care about children, and I hope everyone would support an organization like this. I think there are many, many of our children who have been victims of abuse. So I think it’s really important that we as a society get together to support our children.