‘Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten and Husband Jeffrey Garten Lived in a Tent for 4 Months

Ina and Jeffrey Garten have had many travel adventures in their long marriage. One early travel story involved the Barefoot Contessa star and her husband living in a tent in Europe for four months.

Ina Garten and Jeffrey Garten attend the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Opening Night Gala
Ina Garten and Jeffrey Garten | Jim Spellman/WireImage

Ina and Jeffrey had a meaningful trip to Europe

In her cookbook Cooking for Jeffrey, Garten shared the story of their camping trip to Paris. The experience was romantic but also eye-opening for the famous cook. She discovered that cooking can be simple and delicious and doesn’t have to be labor-intensive to be great.

“After the army, Jeffrey decided to study foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.,” Garten wrote (via Bon Appetit). “We had four months between his last army post and the beginning of school and nothing at all planned — and, of course, we had almost no money.”

“At that time students could buy a round-trip plane ticket from New York to Brussels on Sabena airline for $99, so we got ourselves two tickets and set off on a magical trip that would dramatically alter both of our lives,” she continued.

Garten added, “We bought a tent, sleeping bags, and a small camping gas stove because we knew we couldn’t possibly afford to stay in hotels and eat in restaurants. Instead, we planned to buy food at local markets and I would cook in our tent.”

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Ina Garten discovered simple but delicious foods

The Gartens went to Paris first and, she explained, “discovered French street markets and simple, seasonal food that was based on incredibly good ingredients.”

They ate simply. “We’d have a rotisserie chicken for dinner, some fresh tomatoes, and runny cheese and we were good to go,” she wrote. 

“In those days you couldn’t even buy freshly baked bread in the United States, yet every little town in France had a boulangerie with four kinds of baguettes alone!,” she shared. “In Paris I remember going crazy at Poilâne bakery on rue Cherche-Midi and the street market on boulevard Raspail. If anyone had told me then that decades later I would live near these two magical places, I would have thought they were insane.”

The trip brought them closer

During a May 2020 appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Garten discussed how important that early trip was for their relationship.

Colbert asked Garten, “You and Jeffrey have been married for 52 years, which is beautiful. Have you learned anything new about Jeffrey from this intimate time together?”

Garten shared the details of their European camping trip. “When we were married for, I think like a year and a half, we had four months and nothing to do. And no money. He was going to graduate school,” she said.

“We just decided that we were going to get two really cheap tickets to Europe, we bought an orange pup tent which was like three feet tall, and we lived in that pup tent for four months,” Garten continued.

“At the end of that I thought if we’re still such good friends we can survive anything,” she added. “So being quarantined in a whole house is like a luxury.”