When I'm depressed and anxious, I curl up on my couch and watch "Barefoot Contessa." Look, I don't know what a contessa is or why, exactly, she's barefoot but all that really matters is that Barefoot Contessa is Ina Garten and she's better than Xanax. I'd even watch her show with my eyes closed because listening to her talk about "really good olive oil" somehow gives me hope.
Admittedly, I don't know what she means by "really good" olive oil but I'm pretty sure it's not the plebian, regular olive oil I buy at Trader Joe's. Pretentious foodies usually annoy me but when Ina Garten insists on only using "really good" ingredients, I just love her all the more.
I love imagining her breezing down the scenic roads of East Hampton in her Mercedes-Benz convertible, rolling up to a quaint farmers' market where she finds her locally sourced, single-origin, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil harvested from trees in a local farm-to-table backyard.
"How bad could that be?" she'll ask with a smile. Not bad at all, I'll say. Not bad at all.
Yes, I imagine myself in one of her episodes.
In the opening shots, you'll see us standing in her immaculately organized, luxuriously stocked pantry where she'll introduce the "back to basics" recipe she's cooking that day. I'll be humming along to the Barefoot Contessa theme music that I've memorized and she won't think that's weird at all.
Before we start cooking I'll ask her for a hug because her hugs feel like easing up against a pillow made of marshmallows ("really good marshmallows") and also, hugging makes me less anxious. She understands that.
Next, she'll invite me to sit at her kitchen counter and watch her prepare lobster mac n' cheese.
"I mean, what could be easier?" she'll say.
Well, technically Kraft mac n' cheese is easier, I'll think. But I would never say this out loud because I don't want Ina thinking I eat Depressed People food.
"You know I like taking classic recipes and adding a twist," she'll say, smiling conspiratorially. This makes me giggle with excitement because yes! I do know! And adding a twist to mac n' cheese? O, what could it be???
The twist, it turns out, is "sharp and nutty" gruyere and "really good" sharp cheddar.
REALLY GOOD cheese, you guys. That's the twist. Oh, Ina. You sly little fox, you.
She'll let me press the button on her Cuisinart so I can experience grating the cheese to the perfect grate-y-ness.
"I know you don't go in for fancy kitchen tools," I'll say. "But who can live without their Cuisinart, am I right?"
She'll laugh and it makes me so happy to make her laugh that I suddenly know what I want in my obituary: "Elizabeth Esther made Ina Garten laugh." Wait. Why am I thinking about my obituary at a time like this? STOP INTRUDING ON MY FANTASY COOKING SHOW, STUPID DEPRESSION.
"Cuisinarts are nice," Ina is saying, "but the only tools you really need are two clean hands."
She'll hold up her freshly washed hands and I'll hold up my hands, too, and then we'll burst into laughter.
"Now, I know a pound and a half of lobster is luxurious these days," she'll say.
I'll nod wistfully, remembering those bygone days when lobster WASN'T luxurious, when I'd look at my mac n' cheese and think: "Should I add lobster or bologna? Ah, well. Same-same."
"But it serves eight!" she'll say. "How fabulous is that?"
"So fabulous!" I'll cheer.
She'll spoon our lobster mac n' cheese into adorable, individual-sized servings bowls and while she sprinkles lightly browned breadcrumbs on top (for a "little crunch") I'll ask:
"So, when will Jeffrey be home?"
I don't really need to ask this because we both know Jeffrey always arrives at exactly the right moment. But it's fun to pretend we'll be surprised.
This is why Ina helps my depression: because in her life a "twist" is really good cheese and a "surprise" is Jeffrey walking in the door just when you expect him to. Plus, he'll probably be carrying flowers and compliments.
I mean, how bad could that be?
And up next, Company Pot Roast. We know it won't be easy finding organic, sundried tomatoes soaked in "really good olive oil." But it will be worth it. More worth it than Xanax.