This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The People vs Barefoot Contessa! (UPDATED)
The tabloid bottom feeding website TMZ ran a story with the provocative headline: “Celeb Chef — Too Busy for ‘Make-A-Wish’ Kid”:
M.A.W. approached Garten with the wish last year … but at the time, she was unable to meet with Enzo due to a book tour. The organization urged Enzo to pick another wish, but he told them he wanted to wait until she becomes available. We’re told the organization went back to Ina this year … but her team responded with a “definite no” … once again, citing scheduling conflicts. A member of Enzo’s family says the 6-year-old is heartbroken … and asked parents, “Why doesn’t she want to meet me?” When we called Make-A-Wish for comment on this story, they told us, “From time to time, planning for wishes doesn’t turn out as originally envisioned, despite people’s best intentions and efforts throughout the wish-granting process.” They noted that Ina is a “good friend” of the foundation.
There are two things that immediately jump out at me:
1) Who leaked the story to TMZ?
2) Why did Make-A-Wish verify it?
For those who don’t watch The Food Network, one of its cherished stars Ina Garten – a.k.a. The Barefoot Contessa, whose cooking show is a snotty blend of cliquishness and bland New England lockjaw inspired cuisine, allegedly denied a request for a “dying” boy – who by the way is sick (responding well to treatment), but not dying as the article purported – to cook a meal together.
What makes me REALLY sad is how the press has been writing and referring to Enzo as a “DYING” child or a “TERMINAL” child making his “LAST DYING WISH.” Just typing it makes my blood go cold. Enzo is NOT dying or terminal, he IS very sick but he is VERY MUCH alive and the most ALIVE person I have EVER known! He has two beautiful, sensitive, loving sisters who have been very private through out his treatments and I feel terrible that they had to see that OVER and OVER again. Can you imagine how that makes them feel?
Those are the only “facts” you’ll find contained in any report of the alleged event. The rest of the articles on the situation are largely filled with speculation, unsubstantiated rumor and conjecture. A curious trend emerged among the chatter and the responses to the controversy: the idea that Garten is somehow obligated to fulfill the wish of ANYONE, simply because it has be requested.
Two things about me:
1) I’m not a cruel, heartless person.
2) I have volunteered with said organization
From what I remember about my brief stint stuffing envelopes and being an office jockey is how low the probability of fulfilling wish requests when a celebrity of any stature is involved. I also know that most chapters of the organization STRONGLY discourage those sorts of wishes because of their unlikelihood of being granted. Celebs ROUTINELY turn down requests to fulfill wishes and those who don’t bother with the courtesy of turning down the requests simply ignore them. That’s the nature of the nonprofit wish fulfillment business.
That throngs of keyboard warriors, fingers stained orange from cheetos, would seek to skewer Barefoot Contessa, frankly, was a bit disheartening to me. Personally, I find her show tedious, her recipes nasty looking and her persona grating. Nevertheless, I don’t believe ANYONE is under ANY obligation to fulfill wishes REGARDLESS of the circumstances. The reason is of no interest to me. Why women have to justify their NOs is really troubling and decidedly sexist. If this were a male celebrity/athlete his NO would be his NO. People might grumble a bit, but they certainly wouldn’t be taking to messageboards and comment sections armed with fatphobic, sexist and homophobic slurs decrying every person Garten has ever known simply because she was unable to honor this wish request. Garten doesn’t need a “good reason”; she doesn’t need a reason at all.
It’s unfortunate that the child in question, who it seems is perpetually six years old, was made aware of Garten’s decision, but that speaks to lapses in judgement by everyone involved on the Make-A-Wish end of things. After the first NO – which should have been the final word, by the way – the child should have redirected towards one of his alternate wishes. Women are not obligated to fulfill the needs of anyone who asks; neither are celebrities. Women are allowed to pick and choose which obligations they will undertake. And more importantly, it says nothing about the character or denotes a lack of it, if in some cases they choose to say NO.
By the way, the kid already has picked a more M.A.W grantable wish: he’s going to be swimming with dolphins!
UPDATE: FROM MOTHER’S BLOG REGARDING THE INCIDENT.
UPDATE: Mother pleads with us to stop with madness (that she started):
I had written about our disappointment when we originally found out, but asked everyone in the spirit of Enzo to please just “let it go” and move forward, as I know he has. I know this REALLY hit a strong cord with people, the outrage over this has been REALLY OVERWHELMING. There are so many articles, blogs, radio shows, even a Utube video about this. I want to make it VERY CLEAR we have NO ANGER OR ILL WILL toward Ina Garten. Enzo made his request and she declined, end of that story. As much as I know it has REALLY angered people, she has that right. Furthermore it is not our wish to hurt Ina Garten in anyway.