A couple of weeks ago, I published a review of Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier. It was in some ways a rather critical review, especially in the context of my “selling of style” post a while earlier. The food was tasty, I more or less wrote, but there was nothing “frontier” about the ingredients.
The review caused few waves, but I did receive an interesting email from a site devoted to debunking the faux pioneerdom of the Pioneer Woman. The message alerted me to a subculture of bloggers infuriated by the hype and inauthenticity surrounding this enterprise. Among the claims are that many recipes have been lifted from local community and church cookbooks in Drummond’s home state, Oklahoma, that the cooking is done by others, and that far from homeschooling her children, Drummond hires tutors and spends her own day with a camera and Photoshop.
I’m not an investigative journalist. We all know ghostwriting is a fact of life in cookbooks, and plagiarism is a very fuzzy issue when it comes to recipes (owing to the vagueness of the copyright law and the derivative nature of cooking itself). Finally, because I am personally very prone to Schadenfreude, I try hard to avoid these sorts of attacks in my professional writing, the way a recovering alcoholic avoids liquor stores.
My own take is that Drummond’s a shrewd marketer, and that some of her fans are probably well aware that much of what she does is just for show. Those fans who aren’t aware could use some education in media literacy. But then again there are people who think the Colbert Show is “for real”. There’s a sucker born every minute, folks.
All that said, anyone who is interested in hearing out the criticisms–which range from lighthearted to vicious and offer a mix of substantive and ad hominem critiques– can find them at the following sites:
The Marlboro Woman
The Pioneer Woman Sux
Pie Near Woman
Less is Enough (not devoted to the topic, but offering a series of sharp media-studies-type observations on the Pioneer Woman phenomenon, its adherents and malcontents)
Also of interest are the New Yorker articles by Amanda Fortini: a feature profile and a followup critiquing Drummond’s Food Network show.