we are "no shoes in the house" people too. i was raised that way. my mom is norwegian, and i guess as alix said, being from colder and often snowy or muddy climes, you automatically take your shoes off when entering a home.
i often try to notice if there are shoes lines up by the door to see if i should take off mine when entering someone's home. many of my friends and neighbors are and have been japanese and korean, whom are also shoeless indoors, so it's always just been normal to me.
i feel kinda funny walking in with my shoes on, knowing i'm dirtying up the place.
as far as the barfoot contessa:
'bug, never heard of it, but here ya go: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046754/
btw, bookmark imdb.com for all of your movie needs... (ken and alix won't be able to slip any movie quotes by you then.)
i can tolerate her show, and the name barefoot contessa never bothered me. never, that is, until sush put the idea of ugly feet in my head.
the thing i don't like about ina garten is that she comes off a little snobby to me, but i'm not sure why. i've watched a few shows, gotten some good ideas and tips, but still come away with that feeling. like she's a rich, spoiled, aloof snob. i don't know why. i guess it's the idea that she's a contessa (a rich countess or nobility), and being barefoot indicates being carefree. but then you see a short, overweight, rich woman with lots of free time on her hands.
it just doesn't fit well, imo.
now she has ugly feet too...