Ina, Giada, Paula, and Me

I love cooking shows. They’re inspiring, they’re informational, and they’re so believable sometimes that I actually think that I, too, can have a hot body like Giada DeLaurentis and still eat like a truck driver at a Flying J. With this in mind, let’s examine, shall we, the various nuances of each of my favorite shows—past and present—then compare and contrast.

Ina Garten is The Barefoot Contessa, but let me tell you she bears absolutely no resemblance to sex kitten Ava Gardner, so I have no idea where she came up with that sobriquet. Maybe Ava Gardner’s fat aunt, but Ina’s definitely no Maria Vargas (subject of my next blog: My newfound respect for Wikipedia). Ina is, in a word, plump. I could say ‘fat’, but I’m trying to be gracious. She has a cute face, but she clearly has stuffed too much foie gras into her cake hole.  And cake.

Giada DeLaurentis, star of Everyday Italian, is the granddaughter of actual Italian Dino DeLaurentis, notable scary movie director. Giada is all of a buck fifteen soaking wet, and though she has a big ol’ head, I can only surmise that whatever she eats while she’s taping her show is all she eats—ever. I’ve always been jealous of skinny girls with big boobs, and Giada’s no exception. It also irritates me when she pronounces everyday Italian words like ‘spaghetti’ with an Italian accent (‘spi-GIT-tee’).

Paula Deen used to be everybody’s favorite southerner and used to be a real favorite of mine; that is, before she transformed herself into PuAula DuhEEn, the Scarlett O’Hara of the kitchen.  Poor Paula.  She no longer cooks for us on TV ever since it was revealed that she said a bad word about eleventy-thousand years ago while having a gun pointed to her head.  What was she thinking?  However, when she was still beloved enough to be on television, you’ll have noticed that in her earlier shows, she looks like someone’s mama or meemaw—down-to-earth, simple, comfortable; her later “look”, though, was reminiscent of someone 25 years younger with better hair. I don’t know what she looks like now because she’s not allowed to be on television. And just how does one’s accent become thicker with age? Is the accent commensurate with the amount of butter…no, bout-ter one ingests? Maybe she and Giada had the same diction coach, I don’t know.

Okay, so you’re saying, “But Kelly…you haven’t mentioned their actual talent for cooking! Who cares what they act or sound like?” Fine. As I’ve admitted, I have learned much and have been inspired by each of them. But really, if you want me to bore you with a litany of recipes, go to and have at it.  Geez. This is about the women, not the food.

Back to Ina. Ina is a Long Islander, and everything about her speaks to her East Hampton-ish lack of understanding of the reality of the everyday cook, like me. Ina’s always imploring us to use the good” olive oil, like we all have a pantry stocked with olive oil of varying quality. “Good” olive oil, to me, is the cheapest jug I can find at Sam’s Club. And she never fails to use fresh ingredients, as if we all have a freaking farmer’s market in our little village, where you grab a handmade basket upon entering the shop, a tinkling bell announcing your arrival to the proprietress, who, of course, is among Ina’s circle of merchants with whom she is on a first-name basis. She loads up her basket with “one of each”, and passes the proprietress a dollar bill that she’s had safely tucked in the palm of her hand.  Then it’s off to the florist’s shoppe.  With an ‘e’.  She’ll spend more on flowers for her tablescape than I would on an entire meal. If she were a real woman, she’d know that all of the ingredients for her esoteric menus and the flowers can be found at any Walmart. (Ina in Walmart. I just spit coffee all over my keyboard.) Invariably, she’s only cooking for herself (of course) and one other—her purse-holding, empty-sacked husband Jeffrey or some other Long Island lock-jawed acquaintance. Here’s another thing: Watch when she opens her oven. Spotless. The only other person with a cleaner oven than Ina’s is my mother-in-law. The difference? My mother-in-law actually cleans her own oven (daily, it seems). I can only guess that Ina has a new Viking installed after every taping.

She bugs me.

Giada, though, is a little more earthy, that is, until she starts in with that Italian accent. I’ll admit that I have copied her style, all the way down to the color of polish she uses on her fingernails, and she dresses well—as well as someone can with those big boobs and skinny arms, poor thing.  She also seems to eat outside a lot. Al fresco, I think they call it in everyday Italian.  I guess Id eat outside, too, if my house sat adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. There’s probably no bugs on her patio.  Oh, and she drinks a lot of alcohol, too. My kind of girl.

I just can’t get over the fake-ety-fake accent.

Then there’s Paula. Of the three, her recipes were possibly the most realistic. That Type II Diabetes thing? I could have called that one years ago. Paula’s a woman who knows how to eat; thus, I can’t believe anyone was remotely surprised when she revealed her A1C level. But aside from her affected Southern accent and her purple hair, I did so love  that she had a dirty oven. It wasn’t call-the-health-department dirty or anything, but she didn’t have a new one installed after every episode like Ina does. While it’s true that the original (read:  old) Paula was more authentic and believable, once she got wind that folks—and Oprah—thought her accent was cute, she really hammed it up (pun intended).

Obviously, there are more shows worthy of a look than these three. I like the Pioneer Woman, except that her oh-so-perfectly-polite and pleasingly compliant children set my teeth on edge. Her home-schooled git always bound in from their cattle rustling or sheep herding or whatever they do on a ranch raring to go and ready to devour, with gusto, anything she puts in front of them (including, it seems, the script from whence originates their witty banter). Prune cake? Really Rhee? My kid might eat my cooking if I wrapped it up and served it to him in a Jimmy John’s bag, but I can guaran-damn-tee you he wouldn’t go near anything with prunes.

I also used to like Down Home with the Neelys, but it practically turned into half hour of soft porn, and I get embarrassed watching people make love to each other during prime time…well, any time. They made fixin’ up a mess o’ barbecue nauseatingly blue with their constant PDA and television-inappropriate canoodling. Leave the jiggity out of the kitchen, for crying out loud.  Sadly, I hear that the canoodling and jiggity are no longer part of the Neely’s repertoire—they’ve apparently “divided their ingredients”, so to speak. Acting!

My sister Becky and I have come up with a great idea for an hour-long cooking show. It will be called Becky and Kelly Cook with Wine. We start off with two, three, or five bottles of wine, or, if it’s been a rough week, a box or two. We start drinking and cooking and see what we come up with at the end of the hour. Genius, huh? Maybe some of the wine goes into the dishes, maybe not—that’s the beauty of the cooking with wine concept. I plan to write to the producers of the Food Network and pitch my idea, so don’t be surprised if you see two Midwestern not-so-skinny girls with not-so-big boobs with no fake accents (just slurred words), and dirty ovens cooking up a mess o’ good food.

And no canoodling, I promise.

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Following my years as an elementary and middle school teacher, I decided I wanted to spend the second half of my life just writing. Currently, I work as a technical writer for a software company, fulfilling my passion for writing and editing, and in between the times I'm trying to figure out how to put really complicated ideas into words the rest of the world can understand, I write novels. The Gym Show, published in March 2014, is my first novel. I'm already half-way through with my second novel--a title soon to be revealed. The creative side of me loves to write, but the teacher in me loves to edit, so let me help you craft your message, write your articles, mend your prose, and get people to read what you've written. Contact me at

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