Cooking Like Ina Garten Left Me Exhausted — & Broke

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This story was originally published on December 26, 2016.
Even if she doesn't know it, Ina Garten has always been my culinary mentor. As a young adult, living in a big city and working a full-time job, with bills to pay and a mouth to feed (my own), I seem to always find myself in a classic conundrum: My romantic dreams of candlelit dinners and chic get-togethers complete with homemade appetizers tend to outweigh my resources. So when the opportunity to cook like Garten for a week arose at work, I jumped into it with the unrestrained excitement of a puppy.
Ina is elegant, Ina is effortlessly gourmet, Ina has a very cute husband named Jeffrey and two identically shingled houses in the Hamptons with well-stocked kitchens for cooking and gardens for picking. Ina is food goals — and I longed to exude her demure culinary confidence, if only for a mere few days.
But, here's the thing: I love the idea of embodying the culinary essence of Ina Garten — in the same way I love the idea of getting a dog. A dog would have the power to make me feel more adult, established, fulfilled. But in the increasingly harsh light of reality, it turns out that dogs require a lot of work: time, TLC, space, and (perhaps most importantly) money. Because dogs are fucking expensive. And I was worried that this, in turn, is how I would come to feel about the the Barefoot Contessa.
Despite my reservations, I donned a smartly oversized blue button-down, broke out my best small-Brooklyn-apartment "linens" and "china," and got down to menu-planning-and-floral-arranging business. Click through to see what happened as I advanced through the 15 steps of becoming a millennial Ina.