Thursday, July 14, 2016

Favorite Things: The Pioneer Woman

Image via Google Play

Monitoring a post-op kitty who loves to snuggle means watching a lot of TV. Over the past two weeks, I've worked my through the "Good Eats" and "Ace of Cakes" collections on Netflix. When I finished "Ace of Cakes," I didn't know what to watch next. I thought, "Well, maybe I don't need to be watching so much TV anyway." And then I was doing a little research for a round of meal prepping with my mom. I wanted to make a dump cake, but I couldn't remember who long they go in the oven. I Googled, "dump cake recipe," and up popped Ree Drummond's recipe on her Pioneer Woman blog. I read the post, and I loved how her writing conveyed being perhaps a bit embarrassed about baking something definitively unhealthy and processed, but not so embarrassed that she wasn't willing to share it with readers. (And really talk up how tasty it was.) I thought, "I think I can get on board with any woman who knows the value of a good dump cake," so I started watching episodes of "The Pioneer Woman" on the Food Network website.

Image via The Pioneer Woman

Watching Ree prepare meals for her family and friends reminded me of something that I couldn't quite identify for several episodes. She puts a lot of care and thought into her cooking, and the finished project is typically served in a pretty and purposeful way. It took me awhile, but eventually I realized that the feel of "The Pioneer Woman" is a lot like the feel of a luncheon I went to years ago at a Texan relative's house. The lunch was women only, and she served what she referred to as "lady food": chicken salad, cheese straws, that sort of thing. The table was set in a lovely way (tablecloth, cloth napkins, etc.), but it wasn't so precious or fussy that it was intimidating. I felt special and welcome while I was there.

It was clear that Susan had put a lot of thought into the occasion. Well, not the occasion perhaps so much as the guests. She wanted us to have good food presented nicely, but, more important, she wanted us to be comfortable. This is what I see Ree doing for meals big and small. Her cooking is not solely an expression of what an amazing cook she is; it is primarily an expression of love.

A modest collection of cloth napkins

On the infrequent occasions that I entertain, I hope to hit the same note. I, too, want to put together a nice event, but I also care more about the comfort of my guests. But why define that level of grace as "for guests only"? I also want to have the feeling of being comfortable, cared for, and just a touch fancy in my home on a random Thursday. I typically eat dinner sitting on the couch with my laptop. It would not be hard at all for me to set my little pub table and just eat there instead, sans electronic devices. There's no reason why I can't use a cloth napkin while I'm at it. (This was an epiphany that prompted the purchase of some Pioneer Woman napkins.) I can care for myself as much as I care for my guests.

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