One year ago today, on September 24, 2018 I began a year-long project called Ina In A Year in which I set out to cook all 963 of your published recipes from your eleven cookbooks…in one year.
As I sit here on the other side of this epic journey, I am filled with thoughts and emotions, memories and experiences, lessons and lasting tastes I will never forget.
But mostly, I am filled with gratitude.
Ina, thank you for teaching me to cook. Ever since I discovered you and that first cookbook, I was smitten. Called. Drawn. Your easy way, your casual comfortable manner, your friendly smile, they drew me in. Your quiet voice, calm unhurried demeanor on camera, your assurance of attainability made me want to stay and watch. I felt soothed, at ease. Welcomed.
When I finally began to cook your food, you became my muse. My hero. My guide.
I designed my kitchen to look like yours with black countertops, white cabinets, and those massive glass jars for my flour, sugar, and oatmeal. I fashioned my aesthetic to model yours because I loved how it made me feel.
I watched your every move, read your every word, mimicked your every method. I learned how to properly cream butter and sugar, the importance of zesting and using fresh citrus zest, the difference salt can make in bringing a dish to life. I began to build a successful repertoire of crowd-pleasing recipes, all of them yours.
When I flipped through your cookbooks, I ached for an occasion to cook your food. Lucky for me, I began having children who required much celebrating and thus, plenty of opportunity to prepare as many of your recipes as possible. Every time I would serve your food, people would swoon, commenting and praising me, but the whole time, it was you who gave me what I needed to succeed in the kitchen.
You made it seem easy to make anything from scratch, going to great lengths to effortlessly make any occasion special. I followed your lead, finding any way I could to celebrate the little moments as well as the big ones. I threw parties, decorated tables, took all your advice to work ahead to heart and became really good at having others in our home.
Ina, your body of work, both in print and on screen, has impacted my life so profoundly. My only response is to simply and earnestly tell you thank you. I owe you a debt of gratitude for teaching me to cook, to take my time in the kitchen, to enjoy the process, to have fun at my own parties, and to always, above all, make everyone feel welcome.
This project has been my tribute to you. To the impact and impression you have forever left on my life and the way your cooking brings people together. The community of people who have followed me on this journey are all connected by a common appreciation and admiration for you and your body of work. We are all grateful, and me especially.
I doubt we will ever meet in person, although I dream of casually cooking dinner together one day in Paris. Meeting you was never the point, and still isn’t the point or purpose of this project. However, if one day our paths do cross, it will be my great honor to look into your eyes and with all my heart say, “Thank you.” I would not be who I am today without you.
Last night at midnight the Ina In A Year project officially came to an end, but for me it feels more like a beginning, a jumping off point, a pathway forward I could never have predicted. I am leaving behind the rigor of cooking 963 recipes in 365 days, and diving into the next adventure, following my heart and figuring out how to best share what I have learned with those who want to listen.
Thank you for sharing your life and talent with a generation of people, including me, who have learned to cook because of you and your example. Thank you for making us want to spend time in the kitchen, sharing food. Thank you for modeling the idea of family and gathering with those you love. Thank you for simultaneously insisting on excellence with reassuring ease.
I dedicate this project, the time and effort, the wins and losses, the detailed accounting of every meal and experience, I dedicate it to you.
Thank you for all you are,