The first thing I should note is that Ina Garten is safe and well. Like the rest of us, the Barefoot Contessa wakes up most mornings and thinks, What day is this? She deeply misses her friends, but she feels busier than ever, and work really helps take her mind off the news, even momentarily. “I always have to remind myself, I’m stuck in East Hampton with a husband that I’m crazy about,” she told me over the phone on Monday. “And the Instagram’s really given me a point of reference. I started it thinking I just wanted people to feel like I was reaching out and supporting them, but they kept asking me questions. And I just thought, This is so great. It’s like a town-hall meeting for what can I do with what’s in my fridge?”
Over the past two weeks, since much of America went into lockdown mode, one of the most comforting and wholesome places to be on the internet has been Garten’s Instagram account. While other public figures have struggled to tune their quarantine output to the national mood, Garten has always had an uncanny empathy for how people are doing, and how the emotional resonance of food might be able to help. “There is something,” Choire Sicha wrote in his seminal 2015 Eater profile of the author and cooking-show star, “that Ina Garten knows about what we want, or who we want to be, or how we want to feel.” Right now, among those lucky enough to be safely confined with full-ish pantries, feelings range from scared to lonely to totally perplexed by lentils, and Garten, of course, is here to help.