I had a fantastic surprise waiting for me at home upon our return from our New Zealand road trip — autographed hardbound copies of The Pioneer Woman’s books! All three of her books were nestled in a small cardboard box lovingly padded with politically-correct shredded recycled paper:-
- The Pioneer Woman Cooks (her New York Times bestselling cookbook);
- Black Heels to Tractor Wheels (her true-life love story); and
- Charlie The Ranch Dog (the children’s book that she wrote about their family’s basset hound)
I’m a fan of hers, you see — this woman who’s been blogging since 2006 as The Pioneer Woman. When I first stumbled upon her blog in 2007 (OMG! It’s been THAT long??), I ended up spending hours browsing through her old posts, laughing at her adventures, drooling over her step-by-step recipes, ogling her Photoshop how-to’s (I can only do basic Photoshop stuff, hence the need for me to get my shots right the first time…at least, I try to), joining her quizzes and contests in the hopes of winning a Le Creuset set or a Nikon D90 (which I never did *sigh*). And you know what? I even emailed her a short fan letter on the 23rd of November, 2007 telling her how I found her site through StumbleUpon’s recommendation on her recipe for cinnamon rolls. I gushed about how I fell in love with her blog, her recipes, and, most of all, her photos (the food, the scenery, the kids). I wrote: “Maybe because I also have kids, love to bake, and love to take photographs (although I’m nowhere as good as you). I guess that’s why I’m now composing this email to a complete stranger halfway round the globe :)”
I’m ashamed to admit that after four years, I’ve yet to make her cinnamon roll recipe for some reason or another but I have made her Orange Muffins, Mac & Cheese, and Crash Hot Potatoes, just to name a few. Which is why I was over the moon when I finally got my hands on my very own copy of her cookbook (*smug grin goes here*).
The Pioneer Woman Cooks
In her cookbook, Ree (that’s her real name) demystifies classics like fried chicken. As she mentions in the recipe’s introduction, even though fried chicken is universally adored, it’s also one of the hardest to cook because you need to get the inside adequately cooked without burning the outside.
The cookbook is written in her trademark chatty style and each recipe is accompanied by photos every step of the way, although the pics are surprisingly a lot smaller than what we normally see on her site.
She features many cowboy-friendly recipes like Braised Beef Brisket…
…and includes snippets about cowboys and life in the country, like this very important article about chaps and chinks and cowboys. Ladies, you simply must read the original article yourself at this link!
But she also squeezes in cowgirl-friendly recipes like Red Velvet Cake *swoon*.
Bear in mind that she cooks for quite a large battalion at the ranch, so it’s safe to halve the recipes if you’re only cooking for a family of 4 or 5.
Only after reading her cookbook do I finally understand why her recipes almost always feature butter. To use her own words, her recipes are not “non-caloric” because cowboys need energy to do their work. Makes me almost wish I’m a cowgirl so that I can eat all the butter- and carbohydrate-laden food that I want. ‘Almost’ being the keyword here. Because I don’t think I’d survive a day with my beautiful leather boots buried in mud and manure.
And what makes my copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks special is the short message that Ree scrawled on it. There’s no way I could have gotten this under normal circumstances, considering I’m 15,287 kilometers (9,500 miles) from her or any of her book-signing sessions.
Black Heels to Tractor Wheels
If you haven’t been following her blog and just happened to read this book out of nowhere, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s yet another romantic novel — city girl meets cowboy, they fall in love, she moves to the country and goes through one hilarious adventure after another. Except that this is Ree’s own love story written in her own words.
She has previously posted most of the chapters in several installments on her website but the book contains a few more details not included in the internet version and also recounts the first year of her marriage to her Prince Cowboy, Ladd, a.k.a. Marlboro Man. [NB: Cigarette ads are not allowed in Malaysia so the name made no sense whatsoever to OnlyGirl. I had to give her a lengthy explanation about that particular brand of cigarettes and their particular method of advertising.]
The book, naturally, includes Marlboro Man’s marriage proposal (sorry, Ree, I just had to post this page!)…
Her writing is down-to-earth and honest…and she does not hesitate to include self-deprecating snippets like her panic attack on her wedding day — something that involved stuffing Kleenex into her armpits!
But my favourite part of the book would have to be the story of her ‘initiation’, no thanks to her brother-in-law Tim *grin*.
And again, there’s a special handwritten note for me ;)
Charlie The Ranch Dog
What I didn’t expect was this copy of Ree’s latest book, Charlie The Ranch Dog.
The twins were excited to see a book “for them” and wasted no time in reading it themselves.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Diane deGroat.
Having followed her blog for so many years, the book feels so familiar, almost like ‘home’ because Charlie has long been the subject of many blog posts by Ree and the illustrations of the ranch, the cows, the garden beds reflect so accurately the photos that Ree regularly posts on her site. Here’s Ree’s pic with the real-life Charlie.
Oh..and what’s this little surprise at the end of the book? A recipe for Charlie’s (and Ree’s) favourite lasagna recipe!
What can I say? I love you, too, Ree. I love you more than my luggage, to borrow a favourite phrase of yours. (Whatever that really means. Although I do love my luggage considering how often I fly with them hehe.) Thank you for the gift of stories and laughter and food recipes and generous giveaways on your site (never mind that I never won any of them…although I certainly wouldn’t mind receiving a Le Creuset Dutch oven in the mail next time *shameless cackle*).
Lots of love from KL from me and my family,