First things first: you need to know that Ina Garten is writing a memoir. A memoir we will be reading as soon as it is available, possibly while eating a piece of her chocolate bark. And one of the things our beloved Barefoot Contessa is writing about in her forthcoming memoir is her childhood. A childhood which, she recently told BBC News, was one of the main reasons she decided not to have children.
Garten, who has been married to economist husband Jeffrey since 1968, spoke to the BBC’s Katty Kay at her East Hamptons home recently about the couple’s decision not to have children. “You got married at the age of 20, which is young. Even back then, it was young. But you also made a decision which is not very traditional, which was not to have children, and you made that decision young, too. You knew you wanted to get married, but you didn’t want children. Did you know you couldn’t do what you wanted to do if you’d had them?” Kay asked the Food Network star.
Garten, 75, acknowledged, “I think it’s much harder. [But] I don’t think that’s why I made the decision.” Instead, she explained that it was her own experience as a child that had her deciding not to have children.
“I’m actually writing a memoir right now and it’s kind of looking back at my childhood. It was nothing I wanted to recreate,” Garten said. “And I’m always looking forward to look back and realized a lot of my decisions were based on my childhood. And so I think that was really the motivating factor.”
Garten went on to add another very valid reason for not having children: “Jeffrey and I were just so happy together.”
“I got very lucky, I really did,” Garten told Kay of meeting her husband. “He’s incredibly generous, he has this huge heart, he’s smart, he’s funny, and he really believes in me and I believe in him. What more could you want?”
Garten’s late mother Florence Rosenburg, who was a dietician, influenced her daughter in more ways than one. In fact, in a 2021 interview with Al Roker on his Cooking Up A Storm podcast, Garten shared that her mother actually didn’t want her to be in the kitchen with her. “I think my mother just wanted me in my room and she wanted the kitchen to herself,” she told Roker at the time. “She said, ‘‘It’s your job to study, it’s my job to cook. Get out of the kitchen.’ So I kind of always wanted to do it.”
Instead, Garten turned to Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and found the connections she was longing for in creating food for people. “I think what I was craving as a child was connecting with people and I felt that if you feed them, they always show up and you have a good time together,” she told Roker in 2021. “That was the connection I loved so, I kept doing it over and over again.”
Despite Garten’s deep love of food and cooking, she shared in a 2017 interview with Katie Couric that her mother was very restrictive. “My mother was obsessive about food,” she told Couric on her podcast, The Next Question. “So we weren’t allowed any carbs, we weren’t allowed any butter. We had margarine. And her idea of a great dessert was an apple.”
Garten’s love of cooking seems to be about connection and perhaps a bit of rebellion against her own strict childhood.
As for Ina and Jeffrey Garten, they have become almost as well known for their enviable marriage as the home cook has for her consistently incredible recipes, so clearly it was a situation that worked for them. They first met as teenagers and married when Ina was 20 and Jeffrey was 22 years old, and they’ve been happily together ever since. “We’ve had the good fortune of growing up together in a very compatible way,” Jeffrey told People in 2018. “We’re like two vines that grew and wrapped themselves around one another.”
A pretty incredible match, in the end.