Thursday, July 19, 2012

Food for Thought

After reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, I decided that while I was not yet ready to become a vegetarian, I was willing to commit to making more conscious decisions about the meat that I would eat.  This led me to buy a 1/4 cow.  Once we had eaten all of the steaks, I started looking for ideas of what to do with the cuts of meat that I had never heard of before.  Like cube steak.  This led me to The Pioneer Woman. 

The Pioneer Woman, aka Ree Drummond, hosts a great website full of recipes, like this one for Marlboro Man's Favorite Sandwich, which has cube steak as the main ingredient.  If you have not checked out her blog, seriously, click on the link above, and do it now.  What I like about her is that she talks in a friendly voice, and includes pictures of every single step, so that you cannot get anything wrong.  At least theoretically.  I found a few favorite recipes on her website, and check back to it from time to time.  In fact, you might notice that there is a link to her website at the bottom right hand side of this blog, so if you are ever wondering what Ree is up to, you can click to her through me.  Yeah, we're pretty tight.

After enjoying the Pioneer Woman's blog, I bought myself her cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks:  Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl for my husband to give me for Christmas.  I was thrilled that it was just like the blog, with lots of pictures of the food items, and of Ree's family.  The book had two disappointments for me though:  1) I tried making her flat apple pie, three times, and it always leaked and stuck to the pan; and 2)  my favorite of her recipes, spaghetti and meat balls, wasn't in the book.  The spaghetti problem was solved when my birthday rolled along, and my sister-in-law bought me Ree's second cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks:  Food from my Frontier, where she included the spaghetti recipe, but used rigatoni instead.  Still no luck on the apple pie.  But my sister-in-law also got me Ree's memoir, Pioneer Woman:  Black Heels to Tractor Wheels - - A Love Story.

In the meantime, Ree started doing a show on the cooking channel, which I DVRed, and sometimes watched.  I found that I liked Ree much better in writing than on TV.  She just seemed to have more personality in her blog than what came through on TV.  So, I put off reading the memoir, thinking that maybe I was over her.

Pioneer Woman:  Black Heels to Tractor Wheels is the story of Ree meeting and falling in love with her husband, who she calls "Marlboro Man".  I was sort of unimpressed with the premise - did I really want to read someone's true love story?  I mean, if it was William and Kate's, I'd read it for sure. And I have read Henry VIII and Anne's love story countless times.  But the love story of a contemporary blogger?  After the first 50 pages, I was hooked.  In fact, I'm thinking that the next time I'm really frustrated with my husband, I should sit down and write the story of how we met and fell in love.  If nothing else, it would probably help me to feel a little more forgiving.

One of my favorite characters in Ree's true story is her brother, Mike.  While she never says what it is about Mike that makes him a different learner, my guess is Down's Syndrome.  The story of Mike, and how he reacts to the changes in Ree's life, such as telling everyone in a mall that she is getting married, is hysterical.  There is a group home near my house with 5 developmentally disabled adult men living in it, and I could imagine each of them reacting to news of a sibling getting married in a similar way.  Begin the sibling of a different learner can be a tough row to hoe.   Ree gets flustered by Mike's demands and expectations, but loves Marlboro Man even more when she sees how well he treats her brother.  I don't recall any mentions of Mike in the cookbooks, but I think I will go back and check out some of her shows that I DVRed and never watched to see if he makes an appearance.

Another great thing about the book is that at the end, Ree includes the recipes for most of the meals that she mentions in the story. I liked that about the last book that I reviewed, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris too, so I've decided to add a new tag - "Recipes Included". 

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels ends just after Ree's first child is born.  I was expecting to hear more of the story of how she started blogging, why she decided to home school, and how she got so great at photography.  The point of the title, if not the book, was to illustrate what a huge change it was for Ree to move from her posh life in the suburbs to Marlboro Man's Ranch, but I can't imagine her any place else.  If a "Book 2" comes out, I will be sure to pick it up.

Next Up:  The Night In Question:  Stories by Tobias Wolff

Still Listening To:  The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart

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