Friday, February 10, 2012

Pioneer Woman Is Annoying, But Maybe It's Just Me

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.

35 comments:

The Marlboro Woman said...

Yes, she's annoying. After all it's hard to keep it real when your business plan is based on lies and half-truths. Ree's idyllic ranch schtick just became less so with the arrest of her first cousin for assaulting a state trouper. http://bit.ly/ygbOj0

Sheila said...

I think you need a cocktail! Why do you watch her? I think you should right her a note and break up. Tell her its her, not you.

Sue said...

Hi MW,
I guess calling PW annoying isn't stretching it. BUT if we were all held responsible for the sins of our relatives (forget our SPOUSE'S relatives), we'd ALL be locked up.

Sheila,
You are so right! It's like scratching an itch or even more like picking a scab. ICK!

I can't break up with her yet, there is something AMAZING I have to write about (soon).

Abandoned By Wolves said...

It's probably a sublminal thing at this point - "reality TV" contrivances plus unconvincing television persona at odds with the actual marketing machine + intelligent and perceptive person watching = "Critical Annoyance Mass."

It's apparent that TPW's schtick is beginning to wear thin even for TPW. I was never all that impressed with the cookbook (the copy started my BS detector pinging 10 pages in.

Victoria said...

I completely agree... I had never read her blog or watched her show until just recently. Everyone raves about it, and I just don't see the big deal. I watched the chocolate episode, and I just didn't get it. When she said that the green sugar that she spirnkled on top had a real purpose and wasn't just to make them pretty I pretty much laughed out loud. And garnishing with huge pieces of orange peel? No one wants to eat that. The dog lying in the background was my favorite part of the episoe...

Tom said...

The line "I'm beginning to think we should save our empty calories for cocktails..." made my day! I'm assuming you'll allow wine in there, too, right?

I've never watched her show, and as much as I enjoy your recaps, I'm wondering too why you don't consider not watching anymore. I know, it's hard to turn away from a train wreck, but you're strong, Sue!

Sue said...

Hey James,
Right you are. It's funny that whoever invented Pioneer Woman didn’t think that a plain old cooking show would be enough. There had to be this entire narrative, surrounding every recipe.

Ina does that somewhat, but her shtick is much less involved. There’s a bridge game here or a cocktail party there. We’re not privy to her whole (fake?) life, like we are with PW.

Victoria,
I am so with you about the orange peel, (which I hate with chocolate anyway).

The longer you watch, the more you believe that it’s possible the dog is from central casting as well.

Tom,
It’s always okay to sub wine for a cocktail, even if it may not be permissible to do the reverse.

Why do I keep watching her? Stay tuned…

Emily said...

I still haven't seen this show. I wasn't aware it was still on. Haha. I don't think it'll be on much longer.

The pond jar/bread thing is disgusting. They're all going to get sick.

I want you to have to a show. That's what I want.

Sue said...

Em,
I'm thinking Pioneer Woman WILL be on for a while. She has quite a large fan base. Plus I think probably as many people watch her because they dislike her as those who admire her.

Right back atcha about a show. Hey, we could do one together! We could be like Paula and Bobby Deen. YOU can be Paula...

Al Maz said...

Welp, at least Ree is a success. This is the first I've heard of you, rude "blogger". Of course you will edit this comment so others won't see, but you should take more time building up what you like, instead of bashing what you don't. Just my opinion.

Sue said...

Hey Ree! I mean Al Maz,

If stating one's opinion is rude, then so be it. There are Food Network hosts and other chefs that I drool over and do the exact opposite of "bashing". But at least I'm not giving my opinion anonymously. I've provided a way for people to be in touch if they have something to say. You, on the other hand, have stayed hidden behind a computer screen and given no reason behind your negative comment. It's obvious that this is the one and only post of mine you've read, which is probably a good thing for both of us. I'm tame compared to the many Pioneer Women haters and I actually don't consider myself one of them. Whatever...

Sheila said...

Amen Sue! Not successful? Ha! Geez!

Melanie Moore said...

Sounds like you are jealous of her. She leads a pretty envious lifestyle that many would love to have. As far as her not "leveling off with a knife" that is how truly good cooks measure. You come off as a rude person.

Sue said...

Hi Melanie,
Happy New Year to you too!

Measuring in baking is a very important element in achieving a consistent result. I guess we'll just have to disagree about the right way to do that.

My criticisms mostly have to do with Ree's cooking methods, not her lifestyle. Yes, it's true I don't love the whole woman in the kitchen, man on the range type of thing, but she can live how she wants. I just wish she would use a knife when measuring and not spoil a whole stick of butter when greasing a dish.

I try to give valid reasons when I disagree with a particular thing. I don't actually think that's unmannerly.

Neeners said...

First, the butter thing, my mother taught me to do that many, many moons ago. I still do it. I respect her and will continue using her method.Secondly, when she bakes she dips into the flour container.more of a no-no than not leveling of an almost level measuring cup. Get your priorities straight, spoon flour into the cup.

Sue said...

Hi Neeners,
We'll have to agree to disagree about the butter.

You're right about spooning flour into a cup, but I couldn't mention every single cotton-pickin' wrong thing Ree did or I'd get even more heat from Ree-lovers.

Megan G said...

Saw this show for the first time this morning and I wanted to puke. This blog however was much more entertaining. Thanks!

Sue said...

Welcome, Megan!

My blogging buddies keep telling me to stop watching this show (Sheila, for one), because it gets me going so much. But I HAVE learned one useful thing from her. Instead of tomato sauce, I often substitute fig jam. (I was on an anti-tomato kick for awhile.) But she still is quite irritating on many levels.

gap said...

Foodies having a food fight. Shocking.

gap said...

I also find her irritating. Not seen the show. I was curious to see it once at least but amazon wants $1.99 AB episode. Pass.

Does she have a toilet/bathroom book out btw? That would be cool. And appropriate.

CeeC' said...

I LOVE the Pioneer Woman. She gets back to basics with cooking, canning and family.

CeeC' said...

I love the Pioneer Woman. I think her recipes are easy to follow and I enjoy watching the show.

Holly said...

Sounds to me like she's just being real instead of perfect

Thomas Rush said...

She sounds as fake as Duck Dynasty.

MMeMargoulette said...

she is fake, foul, fruitless, and above all, a SLOB! Gawd with a few million invested in "her kitchen" you'd think she could at least maybe take a class or two so she doesn't look like quite such a gastronomic globby slobby fool!

Pioneer woman? nah. go-jillions mean yer a fraud at best. I cook on an ooooold stove, really do live in a pole barn, and frankly am better off than this woman will ever be. We are poor as church mice, pinch a penny till it bleeds and make do with so little. She has literally everything...where is the challenge? Why all the fame grubbing, posturing? Its ugly and sad.

Its great she's rich, whoopee!!!The condescending aspect is, don't act like your "keeping it real" on your very own 48 inch wolf....sickening. Meat on wood cutting boards, cross contamination...and on and on.

The empty calorie line was priceless! Loved IT!!!!!

Nancy said...

Just came upon this blog. All I can say is really? really!
Wow people!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jess Green said...

You have a right to your opinion, but I disagree with you about the butter. Why is it spoiled from rubbing it on a (hopefully) clean dish? I don't get it -- do you not wash your dishes? Are you the type with a cat that sleeps in the cupboard, so you don't trust your dishes until the heat hits them? Sorry, that came out harsher that I meant. I'm just really puzzled. I use Crisco and wax paper anyhow, but I sometimes rub the stick of butter across freshly baked rolls, rather than melting the fat and using my pastry brush. I'm lazy, and the butter never picks up crumbs because the rolls/biscuits are usually smooth on the top. If it gets crummy (ha), I just scrape that part off with a knife and use it later on something like toast. No waste.

Also, if it is the uneven end that is bothering you, use the marks on the wrapper as a guide to cut off the nubby end. Then use the nub in an application where presentation doesn't matter -- like melting in a pan for a sear/saute. I think I've seen Ina butter a pan in the same way; maybe it didn't have the wrapper, which is more of a waste.

And if you argue that Ree's supposed to be better than a lil' ol home cook like me, that is her shtick, whether you like it or not. She's not making recipes that will make you look like a five star chef, she's supposed to demonstrate recipes that the average family will make at home. Her marketing is based on relatability. I see no fault in that; all the shows are basically gimmicks aimed a certain type of cook. Alton Brown was for the perfectionist, nerdy foodie. Ina Garden, the homey yet sophisticated entertainer. Paula Dean/The Neeleys were the southern/African American market. Bitchn Kitchen was for the young, edgy cook. It makes sense. Why hire the same style of cook? You have to reach a wide audience.

I admit I don't watch her show often, but I've made adapted recipes from her blog. They are pretty good.

Fran McCampbell said...

She talks in monotone and appears to be not very bright. She doesn't have the personality needed for a TV show. She may be that dull all the time; I have no idea. I watched the show for a while but stopped.

Sue said...

Hi Fran,
Welcome! I don't think she's particularly lifeless on her show, but I definitely dislike the Walmart commercials that feature her and her family. I just think of huge factory farming whenever I see those ads. And for someone with a family business of ranching, it seems weird.

MsBeeteaches said...

Hi all! I've obviously been watching the show too much. Charter doesn't seem to have much else to offer except Chopped or Cupcake Wars...also shown too much. Unfortunately, for them when a watch any show back to back for several episodes it allows one to scrutinize and critique. Here's what I like; I loved the story initially...and I'm still in awe that she has made such a successful brand on this initial story...which I have to admit appeals to my to.antic side. I mean...she started with a blog just to stay in touch with her mother. She took great pictures and just listed recipes. Her hunk of a cowboy boyfriend was a little mysterious in the beginning and that was appealing as well. The story starts to unravel however for me when she makes the statement that her mother is a nutritionist. So immediately I'm thinking WOW! And this is the food you serve? She uses a lot of unhealthy ingredients that are basically eye candy for the masses and it sells them very successfully I'm sure. I don't see brands shown very often...but sure Kraft loves her and the dairy community as well as those Texas Ranchers. When it comes nutritional content, I have a problem with Ramen Noodles and shortening and fruit loops and green sprinkles? I think she could do much better. Yes, adding bagged carrot shreds and corn I suppose helps but again she's selling a product that the base of which is very unhealthy mainly for the incredible amount of salt. It's also very cheap! Why? They obviously can afford to eat better than that...why not step outsude the box and show us something better? Her vocabulary speaks to an audience that knows of no other embellished words other than delicious. For God's sake go-ahead and say "yummy" once in a while...geezer. I feel that she's talking to a bunch of ten year olds getting ready to go to college. Way too much butter, salt, eye candy and cheese cheese and more cheese. And it's always shredded. I saw some blue recently. I say...step it up, clean it up, and class it up...Raw eggs in a chocolate silk pie? Really? Signing off as Sheila B.

Teacher said...

Just discovered your website/blog (don't know the difference, actually). I've been watching Ree for awhile now. She is now really getting on my nerves. What's with the "gey" endings to names? Paigey, Brycey, just to name a few instances. She sort of reminds me of a typical air-head teenager. I don't mind her recipes or her method of cooking. But, what annoys me is that she never scrapes the bowls or pans out. She DUMPS the bowls and there is usually a lot of food left in the bowl. That's just plain wasteful. We all know they are wealthy people. Just take a look at her "pantry". But, to be wasteful bothers me a lot. Not all of us have the liberty to waste food. My mom grew up during the Depression and even years after it was over, she always made sure we wasted nothing. She's also very messy, although I believe she's mentioned that herself. I wonder who cleans up after her. Also, I don't like the way she favors Todd. Granted, he is a cutey, but she fusses over him so much that her other son, Bryce, winds up as an after thought. How sad!

Well, that felt good!

Teacher said...

@Fran McCampell: I don't think she talks in a monotone. She talks like she's 10 years old with a real squeaky voice. And, I'm sooooooo sick of hearing her say that "This is my favorite recipe of all time!" or "This tastes like heaven!" Really. Like a 10 year old.

Sue said...

Welcome Teacherey! Just kidding. That is kind of annoying. I really try to keep my comments about what I don't like about her cooking, but it's funny how her boosters get all hot and bothered about any criticism. And sometimes she IS an easy mark.

Unknown said...

What irritates me the most is that she never includes all of the ingredients she chops or mixes - there's always a "good amount" left on the cutting board or in the bowl.

Likestocook in Alabama said...

She pronounces the word "really" like "rilly". And she uses that word in just about every sentence. It drives me insane. I can't watch her. I want to learn a recipe, not watch a fake, scripted reality show. Its all very forced and awkward in my humble opinion. Apparently I'm a minority since she's got a lot of fans and followers. I quit watching. And that line at Walmart is hideous. HIDEOUS. Not to mention over priced.