There are some couples in pop culture who are more than simply couples. Barack and Michelle. Ellen and Portia. Beyoncé and Jay Z. They could always break up—romance is romantic in part because it is so fundamentally fragile—but the more urgent point is that nooooooooooonono they can’t break up, because their enduring togetherness suggests not just that contemporary coupledom can work, but also that a chaotic world can be made sensible, and the cruelties of entropy can be resisted, through that most unpredictable and yet stabilizing of things: love.
Ina and Jeffrey—Garten, officially, but they have also, at this point, transcended their shared surname—make up one of those couples. They are, in fact, according to one assessment, “the most cherished celebrity couple in the world.” The Gartens met in the ’60s, when he was a student at Dartmouth and she caught his eye as she was visiting her older brother there; they married when she was 20 and he was 22. And nearly five decades later, now that Ina is a culinary celebrity and Jeffrey is an occasional guest star on her popular Food Network show, they seem more in love than ever.
She talks about him all the time, occasionally in her best-selling cookbooks but mostly on Barefoot Contessa, invoking him on the show even when he isn’t there. And when Jeffrey does show up—usually at the end, after the work of the cooking has been done—he projects affability and impishness and the conviction that the crème brûlée that has been placed before him is, like the woman who’s torched it on his behalf, a sweet and glinty miracle. The pair’s defining coupledom seems somehow to have transcended the concerns that plague so many other duos who’ve joined the institution of marriage; it manages to be at once old-fashioned and uniquely modern.