Pioneer Woman with Ree Drummond
Little School House on the Prairie
I had no idea how particular I was about so many things until I watched the latest Pioneer Woman. I’m not even talking about the kids fake-sleeping in their beds or Cowboy Husband closing up the barn for the night. (WHAT’S his name – Lance? Lanier? Lassie? No idea…) I’m talking about how just about everything Ree does in the kitchen rubs me the wrong way.
Ree is having a home schooling co-op day, which means one day a week her kids join with her sister-in-law’s kids and their friend’s kids and they “learn” together. They’re planning a lesson about pond water. Whether or not all that is real (there seems to be some question if you search around online), I’m just talking about her COOKING and there’s plenty to comment on.
She’s making some dumb oatmeal bars. Why do I say “dumb”? Because, after all this Paula stuff and just looking around the universe, I’m beginning to feel that we should save our empty calories for cocktails or things that are of a higher quality than a cup and a half of oats slathered with almost two sticks of butter. Plus I’ve never cared for strawberry jam. Notwithstanding what I’m about to tell you, my father was one of the original foodies. Even so, he used to eat strawberry jam with sardines on toast. You can see why I have bad strawberry jam associations. (Surprisingly, it’s not half horrible, if only it hadn’t been STRAWBERRY jam.)
Anyway, almost every step of her oatmeal bars nagged at me in some way. To start with, Ree butters the dish in a disturbing way. She takes a stick of butter, rips the paper off one end and rubs the end of the ENTIRE STICK on the dish.
In other words, she doesn’t cut off an exact tablespoon amount, ensuring the measurement integrity of the rest of the stick. She just applies the end of it willynilly to the pan. What exactly is going to happen to the rest of that stick of butter and its uneven lopsided end? I mostly skip the butter these days to grease pans and I use Pam. (I would still use butter if I were using it to make crumbs, cheese or nuts stick to the pan.)
THEN Ree measures her flour and oatmeal without even using a knife to level off the measuring cup. Are we in a BARN here or something? (Oops, I guess we are.) Also, I hate the way she mixes in the butter. She’s using a pastry blender which is fine, but she has so much mixture that it’s going to take ages. Why doesn’t she just throw it in the food processor? If she wants the oats to stay whole, she could process the flour and the butter first and then stir that into the oats in a bowl.
There’s more. Ree presses her oatmeal mixture really messily into the pan. Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it can’t be attractively put together. The edges are uneven and much thinner than the middle. Why does that matter, aside from aesthetics? Because the thinner edges are going to cook faster and burn.
If anything, make the center THINNER because it cooks slower. What’s that old saying? ANYTHING worth doing is worth doing well – even some crummy old oatmeal bars with no intrinsic value.
As she applies “the last” of her strawberry jam to the middle of these bars, she thinks “suddenly” that making jam would be a good lesson for the kids the next day. Unless the next segment of the show takes place in Strawberry Fields, those strawberries will have to come from somewhere. Ree will need BUSHELS of strawberries for that horde of kids to make jam. Let’s see where they come from.
We come back to a fast-forwarded scene of jam-making and SOMEHOW the strawberries just appeared. (Thought so.) Ree is using strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and pectin.
The big science lesson is turning on and off the stopwatch at a minute and 25 second mark while the pectin is boiling in the pot with the strawberries, lemon juice and masses of sugar. The kids watch Ree and the other two moms actually bottle the jam. I think all of this is great and is a wonderful lesson for kids, but it seems to be a lot of demonstrating and not hands–on.
We come back to the kids doing “memory work” with state capitals. Isn’t that a bit juvenile for the older ones? They go down to the pond to put mucky water in jars to look at while Ree makes a rather bad-for-you soup. There’s not one good thing in it. Oh wait, there’s a handful of broccoli to go with the whole milk, half and half, flour and butter, which will be served in a huge sourdough bread bowl. She’s not even using the stalks of the broccoli in the soup. She could just peel them and use the tender insides. She’s made a base of butter, onions, half and half and whole milk and adds the broccoli. Her kids get a lot of fresh air and exercise, at least (if we believe what we see), but THIS is not a good choice for a kid (or grownup) who’s been sitting around all day.
Ree uses an immersion blender to purée the soup before adding ham and cheese. I didn’t think the fat/vitamin ratio was quite high enough. She throws in diced ham. HERE? Why not add it at the beginning while you’re cooking the onions so it can infuse its flavor throughout the soup. That way you need a lot less. The ham isn’t even in the recipe, but I get why she’s adding it. It makes it more like a meal. (That doesn’t make it right, though. KIDS consider hot dogs a meal, but we really shouldn’t be feeding them those…outside the confines of a ballpark.)
Ree is proud of herself that she grated the cheddar cheese HERSELF. Whoop-dee-doo.
Here’s something bad. The kids come in with their pond water. Ree takes one of the jars in her hands to examine it. She tells the kids to wash THEIR hands, but we don’t see her wash HERS. Then, using her pond-infested hands, Ree takes the bread (that she’s made into a bowl) and ladles soup into it. Ew. Double ew. I watched it twice. Yup, she goes from holding the dirty jar right to touching all the bread bowls. That is deeply disturbing. Then the kids stick their hands right in the cheese. I admit it’s been a while since I’ve had little kids’ grimy hands in my kitchen, but I always tried to minimize germiness from being spread around. Maybe when you’re home on the range, you don’t care so much about that.