Thursday, February 16, 2023

Flashback 1994: Ina Pinkney Offers True Partnership

Ina Pinkney

    On Tuesday I ran a profile of Bill Pinkney, the first Black sailor to circumnavigate the world alone. It seems fitting to follow up with the sidebar about his wife at the time, Ina, extraordinary in her own right. After today's profile, we'll catch up with what Ina's up to lately.

     Bill Pinkney might have never gone to sea, never lived his dream, never become a role model, if it weren't for the effervescent whirl of joyous energy also known as his wife, Ina Pinkney.
     "We have an obligation as a partner to encourage the people we love to be all they can possibly be," says Pinkney, explaining what must strike many married people as a riddle of intractable mystery: how their relationship not only permitted, but encouraged him to go to sea for two years. "When people say how could you let him go sailing, I said I didn't let him do anything. I helped him going sailing. I didn't let him go. So, we have had a very different philosophy about what it means to be partners in this life."
     In some circles, Ina is the more famous Pinkney. "I'm Ina Pinkney's husband," laughs Bill Pinkney, recognizing that, for fans of dense, well-made desserts and hearty breakfasts, her Ina's Kitchen, on West Webster, is a more notable achievement than any mere boat trip.
     She was Brooklyn-born Ina Brody, a 22-year-old shop clerk, when she met Pinkney in a Greenwich Village cafe in 1965. It was love at first sight.
     They married a few months later. No one from her family attended the wedding of the bi-racial couple. "Total rejection," she says.
     She never had an interest in sailing. "I packed him great lunches, said `Have a good day, honey.' But I never, never felt the pull," she says.
     She does not want anyone to mistake her openness about his trip for indifference. She missed him "desperately" while he was away and worried about his well being.
     She taped hundreds of hours of television and shipped the tapes to his next port of call. She made him pillows of varying fabrics so he could feel different tactile sensations on the long, dulling voyage. Each day, without fail, she made a tape of the events of the day and sent those to him as well.
    "I was concerned about sensory deprivation more than anything," she says.
     While Bill was pursuing his dream, Ina pursued hers. "I always wanted to have a breakfast restaurant," she says, of the restaurant she opened with partner Elaine Farrell, who had been a customer of her bakery. Ina's Kitchen just celebrated its third anniversary. In addition to supporting her husband's future plans, she has a Bill Pinkney project of her own in mind.
     "I want very much to have a street named after him," she says. "I think Monroe right down to the harbor, where the boat was, would be Captain Bill Pinkney Drive. I want to do that."
          –Originally published in the Sun-Times, October 30, 1994

     I reached out to Ina Pinkney for an update. She replied:
     The BREAKFAST AT INA’S documentary about my closing screened in 48 film festivals after the world premier at Chicago’s International Film Festival. I was invited to 31 of them.
     My cookbook tour was terrific especially through the Jewish Book Council.
     I spoke for clients at food conferences about breakfast.
     As a polio survivor, I travel and zoom to speak at Rotary Clubs nationally about the late effects of polio finally acknowledged as Post-Polio Syndrome. I now chair a global advocacy group for survivors.
     After breaking my polio leg in December 2018, and surgery, I’m a wheelchair/scooter user now.
     My world and life are different but not smaller.
     And on April 26th, about 50+ chefs will have an 80th Birthday Bash Fundraiser for me for my favorite charities…Pilot Light and Green City Market.


  1. Love this! She's a Goddess

  2. She is a treasure. Happy 80th Birthday, Ina!

  3. A national treasure and an ICONIC woman that always spreads LOVE .

  4. Great column. Always wonder about the other half. Can't be easy to sit back while you husband travels the world. Keeping busy usually is the answer. Thanks for running these two columns and the follow up.

  5. Ina Pinckney is a woman of strength and conviction; love this post.


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