The Pioneer Woman and Too Much Salt

Did you know that the widely read and widely respected* Ree Drummond has a following of hate bloggers?

At first, when I found Marlboro Woman’s blog, I was a little shocked that anyone would speak so unkindly about the woman whose food photography impresses me to no end.  And then, I actually read it. It’s a short blog, considering it was just started last week. I got a really bad taste in my mouth and not just because I had finished a cup of tea an hour ago. The accusations leveled against our dear Pioneer Woman were disturbing and smacked loudly of *gulp* truth. MW was right… I had never read a negative comment in her blog. Never! And that can’t be because there aren’t negative things to say. Have you seen how much butter she uses in her recipes? And what is with all that salt?

And then, I realized something even worse: I have never made a recipe from PW that I’ve liked. I know I’ve only made two recipes. But that is largely because I rarely come across one of her recipes that I even want to make. What is going on here? Have I been taken in just like millions of others in the world and dazzled by a created brand? Have I been hoodwinked by the possibility of winning a beautiful bright red Kitchenaid mixer just for leaving a silly comment?

Probably.

Here’s the twist: this blog post is not a PW-bashing blog post. Rather, it’s the opposite. I will continue to read and to love Ree Drummond’s cooking blog**. I will be slightly disappointed that she bans dissenters from her comments, but I will drool over her photographs anyway. And, at the same time, I will absolutely and whole-heartedly agree that Ree is fake, that she has invented herself, created a persona for herself that she portrays to the world: a super mom, a super cook, a super farmer’s wife*^. And  yes, maybe she’s got the world fooled. After all, Marlboro Woman is right: her recipes aren’t particularly original, and many of them maybe not even that good**^. And she does recycle beautiful photos over and over again. But what kind of marketer isn’t trying to fool the world? And if you’re out to make a living as a blogger or, really, any money at all, how can you do so without creating your brand? What awful thing has Ree Drummond done that has all these other bloggers so upset?

Well.

It’s very simple really.

She succeeded.

* Or so I thought.

**I will also regularly read Marlboro Woman’s blog because I strongly believe that every story has two sides, two sides that need to be equally acknowledged. Also, it’s kind of like watching a train-wreck…

*^Though if you were actually a farmer’s wife, you would know she is definitely not — farmers’ wives are not housewives.

**^ Mac’n’Cheese anyone?

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28 Comments

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28 responses to “The Pioneer Woman and Too Much Salt

  1. Laura

    Yeah, I was sort of stunned when I discovered the anti-PW people as well, and went through kind of the same mental process — girl is LOADED, clearly, and can afford a lot of behind-the-scenes help that does not exactly feature on the blog. But I just figure, that’s her prerogative, and like you said, she’s managed a successful brand. There is no celebrity who is exactly like they portray themselves, so why would she be any different?

    I have had the same problem with the recipes, even! I generally read them for the ideas and the techniques (which I do find very helpful, if repetitive — I didn’t know how to chop an onion, so I do not begrudge her showing that all the time), but they don’t seem to turn out that well. Possibly I tweak too much (in the interest of not keeling over of a heart attack at 25). Plus her recipes are so…meaty…which I don’t eat. So that can’t help.

    This is a long comment just to say that I agree with you! :) EXCEPT I do see slightly negative comments now and then — “yikes, that’s a lot of cream, I’ll probably substitute half and half” and the like. But you’re right, there’s nothing more negative than that.

    • Both recipes of hers I’ve made I didn’t tweak at all and neither of them made it into my ‘Make this again’ book. So, it’s not just because you tweak!

      If I had the time and resources, I would totally aim to be the next PW… a million dollars a year from a blog? Uh, yes!

  2. farminarian

    Your Ree Drummond link doesn’t work….If you see this as a negative comment, you don’t need to approve it.

  3. Love it! I personally am not fond of her. There are PLENTY of other as good or better photographers out there for one, and for two, yes, the butter. Just. Way. Too. Much. I’ve made her cinnamon buns and they are good, but no better than my original recipe, and who needs flippin’ eight dozen artery clogging, ridiculously sweet, cinnamon buns tempting one for days. My question has always been why has she succeeded and not some of the other bloggers that I know and love. Darn that marketing one’s brand! ;o). Although you don’t sing the praises of allrecipes, that website works for me — although don’t get me started on all the goofs that poorly rate the recipe after they’ve changed half of it to suit the ingredients they have on hand.

    Blessings!
    Deborah

    • You’re right, her photography doesn’t stand out above the rest by any means. (Are you familiar with foodgawker, tastespotting or photograzing at all?) I think what I enjoy about it though is that she focuses a lot on the process. It can bog down the blog posts sometimes, but I often find them to be the most interesting of her photos. They always make me wonder how long it actually takes her to make one recipe.

      I think the difference between PW and some of the other food bloggers is not that she’s more successful, but that she has very clearly made a business out of it. She’s been bought by I don’t know how many companies. Smitten Kitchen, on the other hand, probably brings in a good sized purse in advertising revenue, but beyond that, Deb never pushes anything. Her focus is purely on the food (most of which is TOO gourmet for my interest). Her brand is calmer, less over the top, quieter. And, believe it or not, she has 100 000 more subscribers on Google Reader than PW. That doesn’t say much about her total readers, but it probably says something… And I have yet to find anything negative about that blog.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. Thank you for stopping by. The Marlboro Woman was launched as you said to provide both sides of the story. Apparently millions of internet surfers have landed on Drummond’s site and become addicted to her “little ol’ ranch wife” fairy tale. Sadly, the site is nothing but a lab experiment for her photography hobby and a black hole for bad, make that very bad, recipes. My research indicates versions of PW’s recipes have already been published in numerous cookbooks for decades.

    After reading a comment from one of her fans that went something like this:
    “Dear Pioneer Woman, I have your book on the night stand next to my Bible. I’ll be reading both before retiring this evening”, I decided to throw my hat in the blogosphere to diffuse what I feel is a fraud being perpetrated on the gullible. Drummond may be widely read, but I take issue with widely respected. Admiration for this woman is declining sharply.

    • Thank you for providing the other side of the story! To often we — myself most definitely included! — allow ourselves to get sucked in to such an idealistic version of a person that we forget to look for the signs of fakery.

  5. You are so right! I’ve never vocalized it before but I’ve always felt this way. Her recipes are nothing special, and though the photographs are nice, I’ve never been compelled to try anything from her site. I had a few friends that bought the cookbook and were really disappointed. I think that you’ve pinpointed exactly what bothers me about her, and it’s that she comes across as fabricated. A movie character. Thanks for sharing – sometimes it’s not until someone else agrees with your opinion that you even recognize how you feel!

    • I did wonder what her cookbook is like, if it’s any more polished/special than her blog. Perhaps I’ll take a look at it if I ever see it n the library, but I certainly won’t be buying it. Especially since I expect most, if not all, of the recipes are already on her blog.

      I am pretty curious what exactly is behind that fabrication…

      • Miz Susan

        I was an avid reader back when it was more homegrown and personal but the “aw shucks” schtick started to feel very disingenuous and contrived. Mainly, I lost interest because the recipes aren’t terribly interesting (or healthy!) and her lack of culinary training is worrisome. For example, several of her recipes call for warming the same liquid used to marinate raw meat and using it as a sauce on the finished dish, with the explanation it’s safe since the raw meat only soaked in the marinade for a few minutes. Yikes!

  6. Pingback: The Word’s Getting Out – Pioneer Woman is a Phony! | The Marlboro Woman

  7. Pingback: Help Me Rhonda – Pioneer Woman is a Phony! | The Marlboro Woman

  8. Paula S.

    Interesting site. I only learned about Pioneer Woman recently in the local newspaper’s food column. When I checked it out, I enjoyed looking at the pictures and recipes, but something seemed off. How could one ordinary woman on a ranch do so many things all the time? How could she afford it?
    And above all, why was she fixated on using too much butter in everything? (We love the Marlborough Man sandwich, but I don’t add pan juice to a sandwich, as we hate anything involving soggy bread, and I use a lot less butter. Even the first time, I used somewhat less than she said, and had leftover butter in the pan, wasted. Butter got up to four dollars a pound here this winter. I use all I need, but I don’t waste.) Well, her deal with an arm of the National Dairy Council explains her fixation with so much rich dairy in everything.
    My other problem with her is the constant low class habit of wanting everyone to notice her husband’s posterior. Is she still in junior high?
    When my curiosity led me to Google Drummond ranch, that’s when I not only found out she married into some of the oldest money and biggest land holdings in Oklahoma, but I found interesting sites such as this one.
    I don’t feel the hate and loathing for PW that people on some of these critical sites do. I just resent being duped into thinking she is the wife of an ordinary successful rancher, and her presenting herself as superwoman. She’s an ordinary ranch wife like Donald Trump is an ordinary businessman.
    For the person who wondered about the cookbook, it is a beautiful book, but not a lot of recipes. If is common however, for regional cookbooks to have lots of beautiful pictures. My Amish cookbooks are like that. Unfortunately, the “end” page of the book is a full page of the famous MM posterior picture. Just goes to show a lot of money and land won’t make someone a lady.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Paula! I feel much the same way as you do. I don’t particularly loath her, but I don’t hold her in the same high esteem I did when I first started reading her blog, back when I was first discovering the world of food blogging.

      That’s good to know about her cookbook. I’m pretty surprised, actually, how many people are willing to drop the money to buy a book that is essentially available for free in her blog on the Internet.

      It’s definitely interesting though, watching the two sides… Pioneer Woman in one corner and Marlboro Woman in the other!

  9. Paula S.

    Today I noticed she has a picture of the kids playing outdoors and the caption reads, more or less, “some days we do school, some days we don’t. It depends on if I’m in the mood.”
    I’m not going to attack home schooling. It can be good or bad. It depends on the parents, their own skills, and their reason for home schooling. This does, however, point out one of the dangers of homeschooling. That don’t care attitude is why SOME home schooled children are NOT getting a complete education. And only doing things when you feel like it is not good preparation for adulthood.

  10. Nice post– I am more baffled by her fans simply because they’re just like… in blind, unwavering adoration of Ree, which kind of scares me. She’s made a ton of money and I don’t fault her for that, but I don’t respect her for all the smoke and mirrors stuff. And the little ole me routine is boring too, but it is what it is.

    Also, tried one of her recipes… NEVER. AGAIN.

  11. Polly

    Paula – pretty sure the caption was meant as a joke.

  12. Alicia W.

    I just found this post and thought I’d add to the agreements already posted. I first stumbled across PW around August of 2010 and was drawn into some of the tasty-looking recipes on her site, as well as the beautiful photography (at the time) she showcased. Mostly because I wanted to experiment with her recipes and see if I could look as good as she does by eating what looked to be ridiculously fatty, but delicious, foods all the time — I gained 20 pounds in 2 months. And I didn’t even make that many dishes! I’d say probably about 6 or 7 total. After that, I realized she was full of crap, though why it took me so long to realize it I’ll never know. Needless to say, I’ve lost the weight I had gained, because any time I DO make one of her recipes (the Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork is actually really good, for example), I ALWAYS tweak it. I typically cut all the ingredients in half (or more), and add/subtract anything my common sense tells me should or shouldn’t be there.

  13. I have been reading PW website for months now and I click on it every single day…I’m addicted! I want to win stuff and I like looking at her pics. However, I’m also addicted to Jersey Shore and the Bachelor. I happen to love the raw humanity of reality TV and I totally understand that all of reality TV is fabricated. I think of PW this way….I like her blog but I don’t want to be her friend. Does that make sense? I like Sex and the City but I would never want to be friends with Carrie. I just don’t personally LIKE Carrie, but I love the entire world that is SATC. I have never personally liked Ree. She turns me the wrong way. I don’t know why but I completely understand both sides here. Ree is worshiped by lots of people who want to know her personally just like you would a celebrity. But, I don’t happen to like her as a person. Yes, I have always known she has people behind the scenes doing LOTS of things for her. Duh! Did people think otherwise? That’s so obvi I can’t believe anyone is offended.

  14. Deb

    I realize that I am commenting on a old story,however, I just came upon it. I don’t usually read blogs,so no one probably cares what I have to say. However, when searching for PW because of the food network show, I came across all the hatred and was shocked to say the least.
    I have read what people say and I didn’t think that she was fake. She is exactly what TV people do….pretend.(I know bloggers, and a lot of them act like something they are not on their blogs) Making your life look like what you would want it to be and want everyone else to see.
    Her recipes are exactly how midwesterns eat. I live in KS just over the border. I have made a couple of her recipes and they were good. She is not the only person who uses a lot of butter.
    When I read some of the comments on the internet…the only word that comes to mind is Jealousy

    Whether this gets posted or not really doesn’t matter cause I probably won’t be back to see what was said.

    • Thanks for commenting Deb! Even if this is an old story, I still see everything people say here, and unlike at PW, I don’t sensor — unless you’re calling me bad names.

      Your thoughts are very parallel to mine. Ree has done what every good blogger should do — she’s built a brand for herself. That brand does rub some people the wrong way occasionally, myself included at times. (I get a little frustrated when she refers to herself as a ‘rancher’s wife’ and bemoans the early mornings and dirty clothes. I grew up on a dairy farm — the farmers’ wives I knew were out there with their husbands running the farm, not going back to bed after getting the kids up.) Sometimes, I think people take a blogger’s ‘brand’ a little too seriously.

      But, this happens in every facet of blogging — the successful bloggers, the ones who are actually making money, and making a living through writing on the Internet end up under the microscope, and they’ve all got haters. Check out forum topics about ‘Young House Love’, the extremely successful house bloggers. The PW isn’t the only one. Her haters may be the most vicious though.

      Like I said in the post, I still read PW cooking blog and will occasionally read her Confessions. I admire the successful empire she’s managed to build, but I’m not blind to the white privilege she’s always had and that has allowed her to do it. There are so many bloggers I’d rather read for the sake of reading, bloggers who are strikingly honest in their writing and about their life. PW is fun, but she’ll never make it back onto my list of favourites.

  15. I am encouraged to see that a lot of insightful people have seen through the marketing ploy and have refused to buy into Pioneer Woman’s alleged “authentic lifestyle.” It’s contrived to the max: ex-L.A.-based public relations person meets cowboy and suddenly becomes . . . Pioneer Woman. Hoo, doggie. Ree-diculous. I’d love to hear from some real female ranchers.

  16. Lemon

    Another comment on an old story!

    My brush with Ree was on flickr in 2006. Flickr is a photo sharing site that is (was?) popular with amateur photographers. She was my flickr “friend” – I loved her oversaturated style, and mustang and ranch photos! She was so nice in her photo comments. I didn’t realize she had a blog until I saw her flickr page with the link. It was just getting started then and a tiny fledgling of what it is now but the gist was the same – farming, kids, dogs, and cooking with butter.

    But it was always pretty obvious that she was loaded. On top of all of that expensive farm equipment, late model SUVs/trucks, she had a top tier pro camera and equipment (you could read the tags of what types of gear people are shooting with.) With all the great mid-level cameras on the market it was unusual for someone to fork out that much money on pro equipment unless you shot professionally – or had a lot of spare money. At one point she bought a high end photo printer, this HUGE thing that you would see in a professional print shop, to print out pictures of her cows. That’s not something even pro photographers buy because, outside of the massive upfront prince, the paper and ink are ridiculously cost prohibitive. I couldn’t figure out at the time why should would need something like that but it’s probably that she was thinking to set up some type of photography based business. Maybe she couldn’t decide what she wanted to do and blogging turned out to be it.

    I left flickr but have read her blog now and then. I’m not into gardening, homeschooling or cooking with butter, but I do love animals and admire that she’s really into her pets, and it’s been fun to watch her kids grow.

    I think what she’s done is pretty cool. She took a love of photography and writing, found an niche for it (bible belt ladies), and slowly cultivated her audience into a built-in market for her products – books, show, etc. Good for her! Girlfriend has business skills that fortune 500 headhunters weep for.

    Who cares if she’s an “authentic” ranch wife? I would much rather take pictures and blog than shovel horse shit every morning. Who wouldn’t? Honestly, though, unless she’s changed dramatically I think she’s pretty true to herself from what I knew of her several years ago.

  17. Cupcake

    I just came across your blog, through Marlboro Woman. When I first discovered Ree, I was thrilled & hung onto her every word, recipe, and photo. Then I discovered her “haters” and thought they were hilarious. You’ve got to see Pie Near Woman’s site. Priceless. I love a good satire, a good joke, & a good ribbing. MW goes off the deep end sometimes, in my opinion. Ree’s cooking is pretty much everything I grew up on….so I enjoy seeing those recipes again, learning how to make them a little better or tastier, and just reminiscing. I grew up on a ranch, but alas, not one quite as big or profitable as the Drummond Ranch. I don’t hate her for being rich or for making unhealthy foods. I don’t really see her as being fake, I think she’s “just plain folks” and is trying to convey that to the audience…no matter how rich she is, or how much money she married into, she’s pretty much like the rest of us.
    BUT….my inner-evil still likes to read & laugh with the haters! LOL!!

  18. Ane

    Oh, Marlboro Woman does delete comments that don’t go with her ideas…. PW and her a similar in that way.

  19. Jennaleigh

    I’ve only tried a couple of her recipes and both times they cleared the apartment. It was so awful and taste-less. Let’s just say my husband stuck it on the porch and it ended up attracting a lot of flies…like a plague…

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