Thursday, September 13, 2012

Boys, Girls and Pasta Primavera Plus What Does It All Mean To Pioneer Woman?

Pioneer Woman with Ree Drummond

I’ve said this before. I don’t hate Pioneer Woman, BUT am I alone in thinking that this "Girl Time and Burger Time" show was a throwback to a time that I don’t really want to go back to?

This is how Ree puts it at the beginning and then at the end of the show: “The guys are away for a couple of days so it’s quality time for us girls and that means plenty of gardening, which WE love." (Yeah, right…) "And Pasta Primavera, which is the girls’ and my idea of heaven.”

Later: “Then it’s back to the real world – THE GUYS ARE COMING HOME! What better way to welcome to them than with one of our family’s favorite meals - perfect Bacon Cheeseburgers and homemade French fries and luscious ‘fry sauce’”? That last thing turns out to be Russian dressing, BTW.

Is it going overboard to think that Pioneer Woman is a bit of an anachronistic fossil, who is a horrible example to her girls and an even worse one to her sons?

Listen, I’m all for Girls Only occasions – shopping, drinking cosmos, going to chick flicks. But when these “special” days involve Girls Only manual or household labor, I just think WTH?

On “Day One” of “Girl Time”, PW asks the little Pioneer Teen-gals what they should all do while the boys are away.  They say, “Work in the garden.” 

Does Ree seriously expect us to believe that these two American teenagers are actually picking USING a hoe over shopping like one? But somehow, Pioneer Woman has two daughters who prefer the land over the mall.  

It’s not that I’m against manual labor for kids, especially if they’re doing something that I’m supposed to do and now I don’t have to, BUT I’m against GIRLS ONLY manual labor in exactly the same way that I would be against an activity reserved only for boys. (Okay, the boys can have football, as long as the girls can be way ahead in college attendance.)

Ree leaves the girls slaving in the garden, while she starts the Pasta Primavera. She isn’t allowed to make this when the guys are around BECAUSE REAL MEN ONLY EAT MEAT. She should tell that to the arteries of her little boys in 40 years (heck TWENTY!) when there’s a problem. They DO get a lot of exercise, but does that counteract the effects of a complete lack of a plant-based diet?

The basic idea of Ree’s recipe is to sauté the vegetables in groups depending on their cooking time. Butter and oil go into the pan before each band of vegetables gets its turn. Carrots and broccoli go in first with a red pepper thrown in at the end. That gets put to one side and, after more butter and olive oil, the next bunch goes in – yellow squash, zucchini and mushrooms.

Ree tells us she’s so glad that she has daughters so she has automatic help in the garden every year. AHEM. Boys can weed too! “There’s something about country boys. They do NOT like helping with the garden. They just want to have grass everywhere…” I guess it’s for their roughhousing and wrasslin’ and tumbling around like BOYS do.

Ree removes the second group of vegetables. She adds more olive oil and more butter – we’re up to 6 tablespoons now – to the pan with half an onion and some garlic.

Next she adds wine, because she can’t do that “when her husband is around, because he can detect the slightest amount of wine in any recipe and who needs that hassle?” She adds just a little bit, because “her girls are joining” her. I wish she would make a project of sneaking as much wine as possible into everything her hubby eats. I think he could use some loosening up.* (See note at end.)

Ree adds chicken broth next and reduces it by half. We see the girls picking lots of basil (which Ree had requested) and putting it in a pretty woven basket. Lo and behold when they arrive at the house, they’re holding only a few sprigs in their hands. (Creative editing, I guess.)

Ree adds a ¼ cup of cream, seasonings and Parmesan and then frozen peas with the cooked vegetables and stirs that together. She says, “I just love it when my husband and boys go out of town. Just kidding, just kidding,” she hastily adds, lest we think she means it.

A bit more cheese and the chopped basil gets added to the pasta and Ree serves it up. Ree asks her girls what they should do with the 24 hours they have left until Daddy and the boys are back. They say (kind of under their breath and very well-rehearsed) “Gardening!” Ree is delighted.

The rest of the show is taken up with Ree forgetting about her special time with the girls and rushing around making sure everything is ready for the guys when they walk in the door.

She says since the guys will be home they need to bring the food “back down to earth”. Ummm, aren’t vegetables the most down to earth you can get…literally???!!!

Ree peels and deals with FIVE pounds of potatoes. She shows us different ways that she gets them into French fry shapes – with a knife; with a metal French fry molder; and a plastic box with blade assembly.

That last one is interesting. Ree puts the potatoes on top of a grid-like blade and then pushes down really hard. The potatoes get cut into perfect long fries as they fall into the box below.

Ree prefers this method because she says it allows her to get her aggressions out. Hmmm, interesting. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t see the plastic box that the French fries are trapped in as a metaphor for her own life, but I kind of do. (I may be reading more into all this than is warranted…but I like figuring out the esoteric meaning behind kitchen equipment.)

Ree soaks her potatoes while they wait to be cut and she soaks them after cutting them order to remove excess starch. She’s still talking about how great her French fry cutter is. “There’s something strangely satisfying about getting all these aggressions out. I never knew I had such anger inside of me”  Wow! She’s really letting loose. See what happens when she’s man (and boy)less for a few days.

Back to the French fries, Ree says to soak them for at least 2 hours. It takes off the starches from the outside, she says, which can cause a problem when you fry them.
Now she’s on a cooking countdown, because my, oh my, the guys will be home soon.

For the “fry sauce”, which is a sauce TO GO WITH THE FRIES, (lest you thought it was something more complicated) Ree mixes equal amounts of mayo and ketchup and calls it a day. I have no problem with that, but how about a bit of pickle juice and a chopped pickle? Oh wait, that might qualify as a vegetable and so the boys won’t eat it. Gawd!

Ree is apparently a proponent of the James Beard method of burgers. She adds a bit of heavy cream (with some Worcestershire sauce and seasoning) to her ground beef. She has 3 pounds of beef and she’s making SIX burgers, which, she proudly tells us, means that each burger will be a half pound each. I know there will be some shrinkage, but isn’t a burger that big kind of unnecessary?

Ree makes 6 identically-sized burgers, just by eyeballing it, which is kind of impressive. As she does that, she completely coats the griddle with butter and gets three buns going. Why do I think that the 3 buns made in advance (and, thus, not the freshly crisp and crusty ones) will be for her and the girls? And the boys will get the ones fresh off the grill…’cause they were away doing MAN things and they’re hungry!!!

Ree drains and dries the potatoes really well before frying. Next she is doing exactly the right thing. She follows the classic approach of twice-frying the potatoes in two different oil temperatures. The only thing that’s weird is that she acts like she invented the idea. She says she used to fry them in a single pot of oil and they didn’t come out right. Now that she gives them two fryings, they are perfect. Well, yeah, that’s how the French do it, and they know a thing or two about fine cookin'.

Ree fries the potatoes in vegetable oil first at 300°F for 5 minutes to soften them, but not to brown them. Then she raises the temperature to 400°F and fries them for a few minutes more. She does take them out a bit prematurely for my taste. (I like them browner.) But Ree makes the point that they continue cooking after coming out of the oil. She also reminds us to put hot oil on the back burner if you have kids around. 

She’s happy Ladd (Lance?) isn’t around because he always eats all the fries before she can serve them.

Ree cooks the burgers and tops them with cheddar. She sprinkles some sea salt on the fries and assembles the burgers on the “yummy buttery buns” and tops each one with a piece of bacon. Her timing is perfect, because, lookie here, the boys have JUST arrived. Ree yells Yay! Little Whoever He Is says “Hi Mama.” She piles the burgers on the plates with fries. Not even a tomater on the plate. I’d even count ketchup as a vegetable at this point.

The recipes list a Cantaloupe Granita. I don’t know where I was when she made that, but maybe I would have been in better mood if I’d seen a lovely finish to the meal. (PS Adding a bit of vodka to it would ensure that it didn’t freeze solid. Oh, but maybe Mr. Cow-Husband would object.)

So what have we learned? It’s more fun when the guys are away. (Can’t really disagree.) And gardening is the main thing to get accomplished during that precious time. (Couldn’t disagree more.) 
+  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  

*Note: I’ve really come a long way (or regressed you might say). Apparently, at one time, I was completely against Ree sneaking alcohol into Ladd’s food.  Now? Not so much. The kitchen appears to be the one place where Ree has a modicum of independence and I think she should do whatever she has to in order to hold on to her own identity…even if it’s a splash of vodka or wine here and there. A few shots probably wouldn’t hurt either. 


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I'm sure the kids in the garden made a lovely, homey picture for the audience to drive home the whole picture of Ree's quaint country life.

These girls are on a RANCH. That ranch is full of HORSES. If I had a day to myself like that, I'd be out riding. Then again, the Drummonds don't believe in helmets and their riding skills are crap (they all ride with their hands held high in the air). The less time those kids spend on horseback the better.

Do you really think she's that much under her husband's thumb? Interesting take on her. Most people just see her as spending his money and he just sort of puts up with her. Certainly she has to cave to his wishes for cooking, but I know what that's like. Now that I think of it, she teaches her daughters good nutrition habits (sort of - there was a ton of butter in that pasta dish) but she allows her sons to take on their father's bad eating habits. She could teach her sons to eat vegetables. Maybe Ladd won't allow that?

Sue said...

Hi Rach,
Good points. How DO they justify no helmets?

Do I REALLY think she's under her husband's thumb? Not sure. I'm just responding to how Ree herself is portraying her life. I'm taking her at her word when she's saying all this stuff. She seems to live in a very old fashioned and male-centric world.

Jennie35 said...

Here's the thing. It is possible that she actually likes cooking and gardening? She seems good at it. There is something that is off putting about the husband (I'm hoping he is just shy), but I feel like she is a nice girl who takes pleasure in traditional things. I know this is not consistent with my above statement, but I would have been turned off if she had gone shopping! All, that said, I will watch the episode much more carefully now!

Sue said...

PS Rachel,
Your blood pressure would have been sky high this morning if you had seen Ree's kids getting a horse lesson in cattle "cutting". There were no helmets and they were twisting and turning at reasonably high speeds.

Hi Jennie,

Unfortunately, if one is brave enough to film a television show in (or near) one's home and it purports to show one's real life, then I guess you get people like me who feel free to comment and judge. Yes, you're right, Ree obviously loves cooking for her family and tending to her plants. That's great, but it just rubs me the wrong way when the boys are completely left out of any home-tending. It seems clear that they're modelling the behavior of their father...and the girls are, of course, modelling their mother. Can't we break down a few gender barriers, even on a ranch in Oklahoma?

Sue said...

Oops, Jennie, I just deleted this:

"Thanks, Sue. I have fun and am interested in reading your blog and hearing your opinion. You do a great job critiquing what works in the recipe and how the television personalities try to portray themselves! They make for entertaining and enlightening posts!"

(I just had to post it, cuz it was so nice!) Thanks for reading...and taking the time to comment.

Anonymous said...

I have to preface this by saying I haven't ever seen Pioneer Woman or anything associated with it. But she has a seemingly successful show, blog, book, etc., so I imagine a good part of what you're seeing is an act on everyone's part. (Ina sometimes acts subservient to Jeffrey too, although not to the extent of ever seeming to be under his thumb.)

Sue said...

Yes, Tom, I'm guessing that's probably true. Apparently, what PW haters REALLY hate is that her whole shtick is a sham and that she has a cast of hundreds helping her to maintain her home-schooling/do-it-all herself lifestyle. I just hate that little Bobby (or whatever the littlest kid's name is) couldn't plant a flower or bake a cake if he wanted to.

Oh, and Ina's catering to Jeffrey is just pure unadulterated cuteness and an expression of true love and nobody better say anything to the contrary!!!

Nicole Baer said...

I love this show and have been inspired to make many of the recipes for my family. Which is what any cooking show is meant to do. Ree's recipies are simple and family friendly.
Your blogs on this show sound judgmental and frankly "bitchy". Who cares that she chooses to raise her kids on a farm. Stop watching the show and being so caddy! I assume from your blog your a vegetarian since you are so negative about cattle raising. Judge her recipes not her family.

(A working, mother of 3 from CA)

Sheila said...

To my dear "caddy vegetarian"

I can't stand the show, either. The pretense is just kinda like nails on a chalk board. I sure do love your posts on her recipes. I think you're spot on. Thanks for teaching me stuff.


Your fellow caddy vegetarian with carnivorous tendencies.