Today may be Groundhog’s Day, but it’s so much more than that. February 2nd is also the day when one Ms. Ina Garten was put on this earth many years ago. And thank goodness for that. Without Ina, where would we be? Maybe about ten pounds lighter, that’s for sure, but whatever. It’s worth the extra girth for all the love and laughter that dearest Ina brings to our lives.
One must wonder how she’s spending her birthday this year. With all the snow and ice in the Hamptons right now, I have to assume she’s hunkered down in her barn with the fireplace ablaze, testing new recipes. She’s probably “turning the volume up” and “hot rodding” some bean soup by adding ROASTED shrimp instead of boiled shrimp because roasting really brings out the flavor. Sadly, Jeffrey won’t be around because as we all know, he spends his weekdays in New Haven; however, maybe Ina got lucky and Jeffrey took the week off from work to be with his birthday girl. In that case, I imagine him entering the kitchen wearing a black sweater and proclaiming, “It smells wonderful in here! It’s the best it’s ever smelled!” This would be followed by some flirtatious Ina banter that most likely would go like this:
INA: You like that smell?
JEFFREY: I love that smell.
INA: Almost as good as your grandmother’s!
JEFFREY: Better than my grandmother’s!
INA: [laugh laugh laugh INHALE] Bold words. [laugh laugh laugh]
Ina would then put her arm around Jeffrey and say “Follow me…” She’d take him outside to a random, secret area of the garden that he had never been to before, even though he’d been living there for twenty years. The table would be free of snow as Alec Baldwin and Marishka Hargitay would be standing nearby holding space heaters and snowblowers.
“All this for me?” Jeffrey would ask, which is kind of funny because it’s actually Ina’s birthday. But she loves fun, and so far this excursion screams fun — and that’s really her favorite type of birthday gift: FUN.
Of course, Barbara Lieberman would probably drop by to announce that she had a BETTER version of Ina’s lunch, and that while Ina has Alec and Marishka on standby, Barbara had Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep doing her heavy lifting. Ina would laugh in a jolly way and say “How crazy? How did this happen?” at which point Barbara, annoyed that her one-upsmanship had failed to rattle Ina, would stomp off with her snowshoes to have lunch on her tugboat.
Later, Ina would return to her kitchen where bestie Frank would come by with a pad and a Sharpie and take notes while she makes a Greek leg of lamb. First Ina would explain in great detail how she chops garlic and ginger. Then, just as we’re ready to move on to the next part of the recipe, Ina would pull out the finished dish and say, “Here, I’ll show you how I did it.” Suddenly we’d travel back in time, and in the course of about ten seconds, Ina would recite the ENTIRE recipe. Just as we’re getting our bearings, we’d be back in the present tense, and Ina would say, “How easy was that?” Frank, meanwhile, would look shellshocked, and a quick cursory look at his oversized handwriting would reveal that he was still transcribing the first step of how to chop garlic. At this point, Frank would throw the pad away, causing Ina to chortle and say, “Who needs pads anyway?” This would lead to a hearty roll of chuckles that would eventually be silenced by a chunk of lamb she’d stuff into her mouth.
Ina would then furrow her brow and say, “Mmmm… that is so good. The cumin, the mint — you barely know it’s there but it gives it a real [swallow] depth of flavor.” At this point, Frank would just grin and say “Yeah! I remember we always used to eat this!” which would cause Ina to say, “We used to do a lot of things!” Both would then release a mighty joint guffaw that would only be interrupted by Ina who would suddenly whip out her digital camera, focus on the lamb, and snap a photo. Of course, since Ina’s camera comes from the distant planet Xeralon, it would make a 1950s sci-fi alien laser noise when she takes a picture, causing Frank to instinctually recoil in fear.
Frank would be further startled when he hears a voice say “Hi Ina!” Frank would dart his eyes around but see no one. Then, as he’d look up, he’d see Ina chatting with some woman named Dottie on the laptop. Frank would be confused, but Ina would explain that it was time for “Ask Ina!” Frank would protest, saying that there was time for one more interesting recipe — or at least a vignette with Ina and her friends — but Ina would just laugh and ask Dottie to continue her question.
“Ina, I love water. But I don’t know how to boil it. Any tips?”
“Dottie, boiling water is actually very easy. I’ll show you how to do it,” Ina would respond. Frank would then groan and say, “I can’t believe you’re dedicating time to this idiot who has no idea how to use GOOGLE when we could instead be drinking with STROH and singing around her piano.”
At that point, the room would explode with confetti as the aforementioned Susan Stroman and the unemployed cast of Young Frankenstein would barge into the kitchen singing a jazzy version of “Happy Birthday” to Ina. This would lead to lots of breathless laughter from Ina, who would inevitably turn to an imaginary camera and say, “Someone call the fun police!”
Barbara Lieberman would then reappear with a glockenspiel and announce, “I have a birthday song too!” She’d then struggle her way through some vaguely Teutonic dirge before a drunk Frank would clutch his periwinkle sweater and yell “She’s as awful as Baroness Elsa SchrÃ¤der!” causing all the theater gays to titter with naughty glee and burst into various songs from The Sound of Music.
As Barbara and her glockenspiel run out of the kitchen in embarrassment, Ina would settle down on a stool and demand a breather. She’d then proclaim, “I’d say that was a pretty good birthday!” and then out of nowhere everything would just END, and we’d see closing credits, much to our dismay.
Or something like that.
Happy Birthday, Ina!