When will the madness end? The following litany from Chow.com is a textbook example of how the Pioneer Woman’s media team uses an image-building, scorched earth strategy to steamroll her into modern culture. Publicists, much like lobbyists, are essentially highly compensated cheerleaders who rally the troups, in this case a free-lance journalist, to raise awareness for their clients.
In spinning his favorable review, one heavy in hyperbole and wild, unresearched claims, author John Birdsall intends that readers will embrace his foolish adulation of the Pioneer Woman. According to his Twitter profile, Birdsall’s a “drinker of whiskey.” Presumably, he was shit-faced when he wrote this.* Our commentary is in bold.
“Ree Drummond has a face that looks as pale and soft as biscuit dough, dimpled and a little jowly. It’s a face that never once loses its grin (thanks to Botox and PhotoShop) through entire episodes of The Pioneer Woman, Drummond’s cooking show on the Food Network. Brashly copper-haired, with eyebrows sketched into quizzical arches, the Pioneer Woman wears her smile like a shrug, one that seems to say, “To hell with being perfect.” At the same time, she’s showing you how to make perfect crème brûlée. Julia Child she’s not. Her version of crème brûlée can be found in most church and community cookbooks published in Oklahoma.
That’s the manufactured tension at the heart of Drummond’s show—how to make perfect food in the midst of an imperfect life. “If something doesn’t turn out just right,” the Pioneer Woman says in a promo, “I say, ‘Look, it’s rustic,’ and then I feel better.” The thing is, on her TV show, the food always manages to turn out just right. Of course it does, thanks to editing.
Female viewers will identify with Drummond’s mix of dorkishness and girlish grace (“I channel Eve Harrington, Lucille Ball, Vivien Leigh, and Ethel Merman,” her Twitter profile says). Could we have a show of hands from all females who identify with a talentless hack making an ass of herself. A stampede of kids and animals and dust are always threatening to invade the soaring, light-filled Oklahoma lodge house built on the backs of the US taxpayer using the Drummond’s BLM income (it looks a lot like a sprawling home in a high-end suburb) she shares with the silent, hunky rancher husband she calls Marlboro Man. And yet Drummond executes meals that almost anyone could make—even with the demands of laundry and homeschooling and the occasional bout of paralyzing despair—and make beautifully. How many more hired guns are going to invoke the laundry and homeschooling lunacy? And exactly what’s beautiful about unhealthy recipes made with copious amounts of butter, salt, whipping cream, sugar and bricks of cream cheese? The Pioneer Woman is about weaving an escapist fantasy out of the mundane strands of a woman’s life. Lovely play on words, but speak for yourself Birdsall. My “mundane strands” are tended to quite nicely and they don’t involve the Pioneer Woman’s mind-numbing bullshit.
A lot has been written about the Pioneer Woman and her blog, which existed long before the TV show. Yeah, but it doesn’t appear you read any of it i.e. Pie Near Woman and The Pioneer Woman Sux before you pimped yourself out. Drummond’s first cookbook debuted at the top of the New York Times best-seller list (her latest, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier, has been on the list for a couple of weeks now). Also debuting there: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story, Drummond’s 2010 memoir (in the loosest sense of the word) about being romanced by her chaps-wearing husband, Ladd, and moving from L.A. to Oklahoma. The New Yorker has profiled her but author Amanda Fortini later admitted her initial impressions were flawed. She has 300,000 Twitter followers and more than 400,000 likes on Facebook. Her website gets 20 million hits a month. Drummond is a megabrand. Sources? Do you have links for any of this or did you insert the press suppository straight up your roped and branded ass?
But if some Saturday morning you just clicked onto The Pioneer Woman on TV, not knowing Drummond’s net worth, you might not guess she draws Martha-size audience share. Too bad those “Martha-size” audiences didn’t bother to tune in, much less call-in during the Pioneer Woman’s recent interview on SiriusXM’s Martha Stewart Living Radio. The episodes on season two of the show—through pacing, visual styling, and the narratives that play out over the course of 30 minutes—reinforce Drummond’s branding, which is to say they seem totally authentic. “I live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere,” Drummond says in voiceover as the show starts, “and I’ve got a lot of mouths to feed.” It’s a tagline soaked in relationship marketing, for women who feel overwhelmed with everything that’s on their plate. This is masterful food TV. That’s a joke, right? Or did you snort a line of coke before you wrote it?
A recent episode, “Triple Act,” found Drummond getting ready for the arrival of her mom, Gee, and sister Betsy for a girls’ weekend. The Pioneer Woman asks a lot of open-ended questions because she thinks it’s humorous, but comedy isn’t this gal’s strong suit. “What is it about scallops? They’re so wonderful.” Or, “What is it about moms and daughters getting together that never gets old?” The questions reinforce Drummond’s bond with viewers, even as they carry the force of philosophical musings. Are you delusional?
He wasn’t lying about loving whiskey.
A softly grinning Drummond preps crème brûlée in anticipation of the family reunion. “This is the happiest day of my life,” she says, and you believe her, just like you believe in the food she’s making. Do you believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus too? “I don’t know what I’m more excited about,” she pivots to confess, ladling custard into ramekins. “My mom and Betsy visiting or crème brûlée. Maybe both.” Bam! In one stroke, Drummond has closed the sale, injecting her recipe with a meaning deeper than mere taste. Her prattle sure “closed the sale” for you, didn’t it?
And when it comes time to eat that crème brûlée (after a lunch of pasta and seafood baked in foil) instead of letting Mom and Betsy and Drummond’s two teen daughters have their own ramekins, the Pioneer Woman does something subtle but brilliant. She sets all the ramekins on a tray in the middle of the enormous farmhouse table, and lets everybody dig in communally with spoons: female bonding over dessert, played out visually. Subtle but brilliant? Good Lord mister, what are you smoking?
Next day, by the end of a Sunday lunch consisting of the kind warm spinach salad (a personified salad, nice touch)that’s on the menu at a Nordstrom department store cafe, and Gee and Betsy are packing up to go home, Drummond turns her soft-mouthed little smile to the camera. “This is a triumph,” she says. You have to think she means it. Make my check payable to John Birdsall and ship the Kitchen Aid Mixer, Wusthof knives and iPad to…
The Pioneer Woman airs Saturdays on the Food Network, 10 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, 9 a.m. Central. For non-cooks and fairy tale lovers only. Serious cooks check your local listings for PBS’s real cooking shows.
Image source: FoodNetwork.com “