There are some people in the world who just can’t help being polarizing. You either love them or hate them; there’s rarely any indifference.
One of these figures is the Pioneer Woman, a.k.a Ree Drummond. A mother of four and wife of a rancher, Drummond blogs about life in the Oklahoma country. Her fans are rabid, and eat up every one of her posts (and she posts a lot: her website has multiple sections, including Confessions, Cooking, Photography, Home & Garden, Tasty Kitchen, Homeschooling, and a new component, Entertainment). She also has a love story/memoir and cookbook out now, and is working on another one, due next year. Anyone who is not firmly on Team Ree is usually berated in the comments sections of her website, told to “stop hating” and urged to “get a life.” There’s really no room for discussion.
Drummond calls herself an “accidental country girl,” and makes a big deal about being a city girl transplanted to the middle of nowhere. This isn’t exactly true; yes, she did live in Los Angeles for a few years, but that was while she was at USC. She actually grew up on a country club not too far from where she lives now. And that’s the problem that detractors have with her; they believe she’s not honest about what she has, which includes lots of outside help and a shit ton of money. Many are also offended by her referring to her brother as “retarded” (her website has actually been sanitized within the past few months, and many instances where she originally used the word “retarded” have been changed to “developmentally delayed”). It really irks them to see her new Food Network Show, Pioneer Woman, touted as an “authentic” look at her life on the ranch.
I tuned into the first episode Saturday, and must say, it didn’t feel all that authentic. It seemed as though Food Network couldn’t strike a balance between showing off life at the ranch and the cooking segments (this week’s recipes were chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with about 98 sticks of butter, marinated tomato salad, breakfast sandwiches, and some beverage monstrosity that mixed milk and juice…puke). The whole premise of the show actually would work better if it was a straight reality show, perhaps showing what it’s like to ship cattle one week, start up homeschooling the next, and so on. It was pretty sad that in the show’s title sequence, Drummond calls herself a writer, blogger, and photographer, but never alludes to being a cook. Why am I watching a cooking show on Food Network hosted by someone who is not considered a cook, although much of her blog’s popularity stems from her recipes? That rubbed me the wrong way. As it stands now, the show just doesn’t work for me.
For all the anti-Drummond websites (Pioneer Woman Sux, Marlboro Woman, and Pie Near Woman), there are about a billion more that sing her praises. She has spawned countless imitators, who also photograph every.single.step of a recipe and give their husbands cutesy blog nicknames (PW’s goes by Marlboro Man). I am actually one of the few who fall in the middle when it comes to PW; I totally understand why people eat up her posts, which focus on the simplicity of living away from it all, but I also get why it pisses others off that she talks about being a regular woman as she snaps away on her $8,000 camera. Her recipes are a little too dependent on processed food for my liking, and I don’t enjoy how right-leaning many of her commenters seem to be. I don’t love her, but I just can’t hate her.
You never know what’s going to propel someone to stardom, and I don’t think Drummond went out of her way to become famous. I do think, though, that once the attention started, she didn’t shy away from it, and has become a rather shrewd businesswoman. I’m curious to see what this “accidental country girl” does next.