Pandemic Thanksgiving With Ina Garten


Each household around the nation must adapt to the public health requirements as we confront an out-of-control pandemic. That means for the upcoming holidays we need to abide by strict social distancing. That is not a fun idea no matter how it is presented, but a most prudent one for the larger good.

As I read the newspaper this morning and took in all the news about caseloads and local mandates it was rather dismal. But then the smiling face of the Barefoot Contessa and her story of limitations for Thanksgiving made me aware, again, how much we are all in this together.

The Contessa’s quarantine is not our quarantine. Her kitchen is not our kitchen. But this year, her Thanksgiving is pretty much our Thanksgiving: tiny and improvised, without the guardrails of tradition we usually rely on for a holiday dinner.

She adapted to the pandemic energetically, opening her freezer and pantry (via pictures on Instagram) and asking, “Does anyone have something they don’t know what to do with?” She has gained 1 million followers since March.

It was the first time she had invited regular contact with her fans, and she learned a lot. No one was actually using dried beans. Sourdough was over quickly. A recipe for Overnight Mac and Cheese crashed her website.

When she and Jeffrey went into lockdown in March, the work did not stop. In addition to becoming her own social media manager, she has taken over production of her new show, “The Best of Barefoot Comfort,” acting as her own hair and makeup team, camerawoman, director, audio tech and food stylist.

Normally, her work kitchen operates — with two full-time assistants — like a never-ending assembly line, churning out three different recipes at a time.

One recipe is in the early stages, on which she is sharpening the flavors and coaxing the textures until they fit the ideal in her head. (This is why her profiterole and Boston cream pie recipes took years to perfect: three different components — custard, chocolate, cake — that have to work individually and together.) Another is in early testing, where she hands her version to an assistant with home-cooking skills, watches closely to see what mistakes are made and rewrites accordingly. A third is in the last stage, being tested by a professional and styled for photography. Overall, several people who have worked with her said, each recipe is tested 10 to 12 times before publication.