Why Ina Garten Named Her Food Network Show Barefoot Contessa

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBC/Getty Images.
With the Oscars coming up this weekend, of course Ina Garten has the perfect suggestion for what to serve at your viewing party. Besides the usual entertaining tips she's known for, in her recent Academy Awards party blog post, Garten also revealed a piece of very interesting trivia about her brand. While an Oscars blog entry might seem like an unlikely place for the Food Network star to explain how she came up with her Barefoot Contessa moniker, it's actually quite fitting because the name was inspired by a 1954 film.
In 1978, Garten bought a specialty food store in the Hamptons, and she named it Barefoot Contessa. The store's name went on to be included in the titles of her cookbook and her Food Network cooking show. Because fans see the nickname everywhere from their bookshelves to their TV screens, many have long been curious about its origin. Now, we finally know.
In her Academy Awards party blog post, just before she suggests that her readers make Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs for their guest this Sunday, the cookbook author wrote, "So many people ask, 'What does Barefoot Contessa mean?' It was the original name of my specialty food store after a movie with Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart."
According to IMDB, The Barefoot Contessa was about the complicated life of Maria Vargas (Gardner), a glamorous Spanish actress who always prefers to go barefoot. The film connects particularly well to this time of year because at the 27th annual Academy Awards, it was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Edmond O'Brien, who played Maria Vargas' publicist Oscar Muldoon, also won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor that year.
But, why did Ina Garten choose to use this movie title as her specialty foods store's name and eventually, the basis of her entire brand? It has to do with what Ava Gardener's character Maria represents in the film. Garten explained, "for me, it means being both elegant and earthy." Maria and Ina do indeed have those qualities in common, which means they both deserve to bare the title Barefoot Contessa.

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