Ina Garten and her husband, Jeffrey, celebrate their 50th anniversary on December 22, but the celebrity chef is marking the momentous occasion a bit differently: Ina has been honoring her hubby all week long by sharing the sweetest photos and stories of their marriage.
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Instead of celebrating our 50th Anniversary (yikes!) just on the day (this coming Saturday), Jeffrey and I decided to celebrate it all week long! So I’m starting with a photograph of Jeffrey and me leaving our wedding for our honeymoon, tennis racquets in hand. It’s been an amazing 50 years!!! #loveofmylife
Ina and her husband, who teaches at Yale, first met when the chef was visiting her older brother at Dartmouth. Jeffrey also happened to attend the same school and caught sight of Ina through a library window. He was instantly smitten. “Look at that girl, isn’t she beautiful?” he said to his roommate, who, as it would happen, had a date with Ina that night.
When nothing happened between Jeffery’s roommate and Ina, Jeffrey saw his chance. He began writing Ina letters until the couple went on their first date a few months later. However, the pair had a hiccup on their first date: Ina and Jeffrey drove to New York from Connecticut because you could legally drink in New York at 18. “It was a disaster,” Ina told Food Network. “I had never been to a bar in my life! The guy at the door says, ‘Where’s your ID?’ and I thought, ‘What ID?'” The couple ended up having “a perfectly good time” at a coffeeshop back in Connecticut.
Eventually, the two got serious, and Ina would travel six hours from Syracuse to Hanover, New Hampshire, where Dartmouth is located. Jeffrey jokes that Ina was the most famous graduate of the Dartmouth class of ’68.
“It was very fashionable at the time for guys to date women who were going off to medical school or law school,” Jeffrey said, “but Ina was sending me shoe boxes of brownies and making me sweaters. And all these guys who were after those other women — they were in my room all the time, asking, ‘What did Ina send you this time?'”
On December 22, 1968, the two finally tied the knot. Ina was only 20 and suddenly an Army wife. The couple moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Jeffrey was stationed.
At the time, Ina was home all day with plenty of hours in the day to cook for her husband. It wasn’t until Jeffrey came home and found her watching TV that she finally decided to get a job. “He was like, ‘If you don’t do something, you’ll be really unhappy,’ and it was the first moment that I thought, ‘Wow, that never even occurred to me,'” Ina revealed to Katie Couric.
Ina ended up working for the government during the Ford and Carter administrations as a budget analyst. “Isn’t that crazy?” she marveled to Couric during an episode of Couric’s show on Facebook, Getting There. “I was part of the group that oversaw the budgets of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”
Realizing that a job at the White House was not what she wanted, Ina eventually bought the Barefoot Contessa, a small specialty store in the Hamptons, with prodding from her husband. Of course, the rest is history!
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Back when Jeffrey and I were dating, he wrote me a letter (which I still have!). He said he wanted to take me to Paris but maybe before we can afford to stay in a hotel, we'll go camping; then later we could stay in a hotel; and maybe someday we could afford to have an apartment in Paris. Jeffrey, you've made all my dreams come true! #besthubbyever
All these years later, it’s evident that Ina and Jeffrey are just as in love today as they were 50 years ago. As for how she ended up with her dream man, Ina told TODAY it was really the “luck of the draw. I think you marry someone who thinks you’re just the most important thing in the world, and you think he’s the most important thing in the world. It’s that simple, isn’t it? People make it so complicated.”
Despite 50 being a monumental anniversary, Ina says she and Jeffrey aren’t planning anything extravagant. “He’s going to take me to a very special restaurant, and then we’re going to go to Paris on Thursday,” she explained. “I get the week off.”
The pair spent four months traveling through Europe in the early 1970s, and it was during this time that Ina really got to show off her cooking chops, banging out meals on five dollars a day using a gas camping stove. These days, the couple can afford to stay at fancy hotels where other people cook for them, but it will certainly still be a wonderful experience to go back to the place where so many memories were made.
“If we can survive in a tent for four months, we can survive anything,” Ina joked.