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INA GARTEN was an Econ Major!

“What can you do with an economics major?” I frequently get that question from students who are trying to decide what undergraduate degree they should pursue. My short answer is: “ANYTHING YOU WANT!” (although I try not to yell it)

My longer answer:

Economics is an often-misunderstood discipline, but at its core it is about decision-making. It is about how people make decisions, how firms make decisions, and how governments make decisions. It requires you to think logically and analytically and to consider second and third order effects of things. It also teaches you to analyze data and be able to identify correlational versus causal effects. If the government imposes a restriction on something – how will people respond? If people over (or under) consume something – like pollution – should the government step in to help? How do prices get determined? And so on…

So back to the question “what can you do with a major in economics?”: you can do anything that requires you to think. Since most jobs require you to think, pretty much anything is open to you. Or, as the phrase goes, “the sky is the limit.”

You could become a writer, an actor, a lawyer, a consultant, an investment banker (what most people think economists do). You could even become a CELEBRITY COOKBOOK AUTHOR AND FOOD NETWORK STAR! (this time, I am yelling)

I’m not a huge celebrity idolizer. I know very few actors by names. And, unless they are discussing it on country radio music stations, I don’t know the latest celebrity breakup or scandal. I do, however, have a few favorite celebrity cookbook and food bloggers. Namely: Deb Perelman (Smitten Kitchen), Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman), and -- the one who tops the list – Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa). I’ve gone to a couple of Ina’s book talks and walked away with the thought: “That’s who I want to be.” She has such a calm and humble presence while also being funny and just an incredible cook.

So, as one does, I decided to look up what Ina’s college major was. And, guess what? INA GARTEN WAS AN ECONOMICS MAJOR (again with the yelling). According to my internet research, she originally went to Syracuse to be a fashion major but then switched to Economics.

As is more well known, she then then pursued a career in government working at the White House Office of Management and Budget on nuclear energy budgets. After some time, she decided to go in a different direction and bought a small food shop called Barefoot Contessa in the Hamptons. She ran that (I’m sure beautifully) for many years. After selling her store she then began writing cookbooks and eventually got her own show on the Food Network. As of this year, she has 12 cookbooks! (More info on her website:

So, quite literally, you can do anything you want with an economics major! I’d love to ask Ina some questions about how she uses her degree today... maybe one day! (Fun story: I once was at dinner in NYC at a table next to Ina and her husband. I’m happy to say that I did not bother her with this very important question.)

Now, if you want to be an engineer, or know for sure you want to be an accountant, then you probably should major in those subjects. But, if you are interested in thinking analytically and learning how to better read the news and understand how the world works – then economics is a great way to go!

And who knows, maybe you’ll be the next Ina Garten!

For a discussion by the American Economic Association on what economic majors do, their future salaries, and more visit

Ina Garten’s Brownie Pudding

As I mentioned, Ina has 12 cookbooks so there is no shortage of recipes I could have chosen for this post. But I LOVE this brownie pudding. It’s like a huge molten cake.

I changed the recipe slightly because I love the combination of chocolate with almond flavoring, but if you want to be more traditional, then stick with her recipe.

Also, another random tidbit, Ina apparently has had the same bottle of homemade vanilla extract for years! She just adds vodka and more vanilla beans when needed. Watch this wonderful video on it.


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

4 eggs, room temperature preferably

2 cups (400 grams) sugar

3/4 cup (75 grams) cocoa powder

1 tsp. almond extract

1 Tbsp. almond liquor

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a large baking pan (9x12 or whatever you have that is around that size and will fit in a larger dish, such as a roasting pan).

Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy (Ina says 5 to 10 minutes). The room temperature eggs help get this to be fluffier.

In a separate bowl combine cocoa and flour. Using a fork, stir together to get the clumps out (or use a sifter if you are fancy like that).

Mix the almond extract, almond liquor, and the cocoa/flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture. Then add the melted, but slightly cool, butter and mix until all combined.

Pour your delicious chocolate mixture into your greased pan. Place your pan in a larger pan (I use a roasting dish) and pour water around the sides of your smaller pan so that it comes up about 1/2 way.

Bake at 325 for one hour. The outsides of the brownie will be mostly cooked, but the inside will still giggly (yum).

Fix a bowl of ice cream and add a scoop of brownie. It’s amazing.


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