"If I could be with her seven days a week, 24 hours a day, that would be my ideal," said husband Jeffrey on the cusp of the couple's 50th wedding anniversary.

Perri Ormont Blumberg
October 22, 2018

No, it wasn't her Perfect Roast Chicken.

In a new interview with PEOPLE, the Barefoot Contessa opens up about how she met her now-husband of what will be 50 years on December 22nd, 2018.  “He saw me on the street and then sent me a letter with a photograph of himself in it,” Ina Garten told people of their first encounter in 1963. “I just remember running through the house and going, ‘Mom, Mom, you’ve got to see this picture of this guy. He’s so cute!'”

The duo's penpal exchange continued after they wed and Jeffrey was sent to Thailand for a year with the Army. “I wrote to Ina every single day,” Jeffrey said in the same interview. “During the whole year I was only able to call her once.”

Ina kept all of the couple's letters. “I was recently reading through them, and I came across one that said, ‘I’d love to take you to Paris, and we won’t have enough money for a hotel, but maybe we’ll go camping,'” Ina told PEOPLE, with a chuckle, admitting that they actually did camp on their first vacation in Paris. Though Paris now holds a special place in their hearts — the couple celebrate their anniversary there every year — home for Jeffrey and Ina is in the Hamptons.

“When we’re not together, I’ll send her five or six texts per day,” said Jeffrey, who now commutes a few days a week to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he is a professor at the Yale School of Management. “I love looking at her schedule. I can envision where she is and what she’s doing, and it doesn’t feel like we’re apart. If I could be with her seven days a week, 24 hours a day, that would be my ideal.”

Here's to many more happy and healthy years of adventure, laughter, and, of course, Ina's fresh fig and ricotta cake.

Read the full story on PEOPLE here.