Food News

Why Is Everyone So Mad at the Pioneer Woman?

March 13, 2017

For the past few days, I’ve had numerous friends ask me about my thoughts on Ree Drummond, better known as the Food Network’s Pioneer Woman. She’s certainly divisive, but I’ve never had many opinions about her, good or bad; she exists, and she brings some people joy, which I can’t and won't take away.

Lately, a five-year old clip from her show has been making the rounds online, involving Drummond prepping “Asian wings” for a cabal of hungry men. Thick Dumpling Skin, a podcast and blog staffed entirely by Asian Americans, surfaced the clip last week with the suggestion that it was subtly, but virulently, stoking timeworn anti-Asian sentiment. Take a look:

There’s a lot going on in this choppily edited, frenetic clip. It’s difficult to make sense of on the first watch, but I think I’ve decoded it after 30 views: Drummond plays a prank on the good old wing-hungry boys of her house. She brings out a spread of sesame-coated chicken wings from her oven, shocking the men. “Where are the real wings?” one befuddled man asks. Another weighs in: “I don’t trust ’em,” he claims of the Asian wings. Drummond, after playing fake for a bit, clears it up: She’s just joshing. "I wouldn't do that to you," she replies. She brings out the real American Buffalo wings, the jokester. (I'd take these maligned "Asian wings" over Buffalo wings any day.)

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This incident has initiated a typical call-and-response; look at the replies to that tweet for the gradient of opinions it's generated. Since Thick Dumpling Skin posted the clip last week, there’s been a growing chorus online of people asking the Food Network to take the episode out of rotation. Drummond has yet to issue a formal response to this controversy, though, according to HollywoodLife, a source close to Drummond says she doesn’t understand what the big fuss is about, that it’s mere “PC madness.” It's a sentiment that her supporters share. Some, of course, have insisted that this is a non-controversy, sticking to the playbook of lamenting about the sensitivities of a preciously apolitical space like food.

Anyone who’s skeptical of these claims may be swayed by the more salient point that Thick Dumpling Skin has tried to make. It's pointed out that the Food Network is, in general, shoddy when it comes to portraying the depth and variety of cuisines from Asia; that this Pioneer Woman segment, a mere 30 seconds, is a symptom of the mockery leveled against Asian food on the network. (Never mind that Asia is an impossibly large continent, and that we may very well start by clarifying and giving more nuance to a label like "Asian food.")

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Top Comment:
“Oh no, not again. Please don't resurrect this. EVERYONE, put your hands up and step AWAY from the computer. That's it, nice and easy now. That's good. Back up slowly and leave the room. NOW GET YOUR SORRY BUTTS INTO THE KITCHEN AND COOK SOMETHING!”
— Sharon
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When it comes to this particular controversy, I’ll be honest—it’s got a slightly irksome undertone I can't quite place. And even if you don't agree with their read on this segment, there's something crummy about knowing that the concerns of some Asian Americans protesting this clip have been dismissed offhand. To the suggestion that the episode be taken out of rotation, well, I’m of mixed minds; let this gaffe live for the world to see! And, more importantly, please get this show some new editors.

What's your take on this segment? Let us know in the comments.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.

179 Comments

Starbakhs October 23, 2019
Ree is actually very racist. I am an avid food network watcher and I saw her judging a few shows, including food network star. One woman was Indian and cooked amazing food, and she had to present a show with ree. Ree was SO rude with her compared to the other white contestants and didn’t let her do her job, which ended up getting her eliminated. It was shocking to watch. Ree honestly is the new Paula deen. Unoriginal cooking, and racist. I never seen her use a single vegetable in her food besides corn, tomatoes, and iceberg lettuce. And then it’s the most uncreative flavor profiles.
 
Stephen S. September 2, 2019
Was I the only one that caught one of the guys saying, as they saw the first wings: "Are you trying to turn us the "other way"? Really? Stupid.
 
Holly W. May 11, 2019
All I know is that I tried the ready-to-eat "Fried Chicken with Gravy" from Walmart and found it rather unpleasant. There are frozen meals that are much less expensive that taste twice as good.

I think this woman's cooking is overrated.
 
Suzie W. April 27, 2019
I watched her show a few times and decided I did not care for her. Her recipes, like so many of these tv chefs, are extremely unhealthy, although I am sure that are delicious. I also do not care for her too happy attitude, overly cheery. She needs to get over herself.
 
Angie March 2, 2019
I like her recipes but she’s not relatable to regular working people. And I personally would have chosen the Asian wings because I don’t care for buffalo wings.
I think it was tacky but she comes across as a rich, better than anyone else, kind of woman.
You’ll never see her feeding the homeless.
 
Trish B. February 11, 2019
I really think that humans have become a bunch of babies. Stop with the over sensitive nonsense. This wasn't anything to do with Asians in general, it was about an all american food fish being served to American cowboys. It would be the same if an Asian person was serving Campbell's chicken noodle soup to an Asian family and telling them it's Ramen.
 
Dishlicious February 11, 2019
Amen, Trish!
 
Art February 8, 2019
I find this article very hypocritical. I'm not Asian but my husbands relatives are. Some Asians in general are very particular about the food they eat. I've made non Asian food and my Asian relatives always want to eat thier own food. Many Asians feel thier food is the best and wont even try to cook American food.
 
J.l. M. February 8, 2019
IF your "husband's RELATIVES" are Asian doesn't that make HIM Asian? You seem to exclude him from this.

Or is he Caucasian and was adopted by Asians? That would be a reverse.

Your odd phrasing makes its own kind of point here.

 
Art February 8, 2019
My husband is Asian but he likes to eat other types of food obviously. His relatives do not. What's does it matter about my husband??? I'm talking about how his relatives have a bias against non Asian food. This article downs non Asians for not wanting to eat Asian food but it happens the other way around too. The article is very hypocritical.
 
J.l. M. February 11, 2019
You said "my husband's relatives are Asian" as if he's not.

Do you have an issue with it? Because if you said "my husand is Asian" we'd assume so are his relatives. But you don't want to say that.

Maybe you just didn't write very well but it sounds like a Freudian slip.

 
Francesca February 5, 2019
To say that I am not impressed with The Pioneer Woman is an understatement. I made the mistake of purchasing quite a few things from her collection from Walmart.ca. Every one of the things I purchased was defective - cheaply made - looked like something you'd buy at the dollar store. So I posted honest 1-star reviews for every item. Each review was initially approved and stayed on the website for a day or two and then disappeared. I then noticed that this happens to almost ALL negative (1 and 2 star) reviews on ALL Pioneer Woman items. When I asked Walmart about it, I never received a reply. When I emailed Ree directly about it, she didn't have the decency to reply either.

Also, I have been trying to get some items replaced directly from Dee, as I was told to do by Walmart, for a month now. After numerous emails back and forth telling me she would replace the items, I have yet to receive replacements or even a shipment confirmation. Every time I email her inquiring about it, I'm told that she hasn't been given a shipment date either. And she leaves me hanging instead of providing the proper customer service she should and getting right on it.

Never again will I purchase anything from this woman and I'm telling everyone I know who even mentions her product line not to, unless they want poorly made, poor quality, damaged items followed by the nightmare of trying to get a refund or replacement.
 
J.l. M. February 8, 2019
That's what we get when we shop at WalMart.
 
Sarah T. February 23, 2019
Post your comments to Facebook and I bet you will get an answer. Go to her page and post.
 
annie February 2, 2019
I can't stand this woman. The food is unhealthy, she cooks way too much for humans to consume and she looks like death with makeup. Please end this. Even Paula Deen had more class than this b----!
 
Aden January 11, 2019
The problem is that she's a terrible and lazy cook with absolutely no idea what she's talking about. Someone like that giving advice to people is just not on.
 
J.l. M. November 4, 2018
The real problem is that Ree is so thirsty for fame and fortune that she'll do a racist joke just to pander to any racist viewers. She's a city girl, she knows what she's doing. She's using light racism to get ahead.

And some of you like it.
 
J.l. M. November 4, 2018
I'm sorry, don't know what an "Asian Wing" even is -- there are so many kinds, and they are so much more delicious than a "Buffalo Wing"! Asian food is an ancient cuisine from multiple countries and the very idea of labeling them "Asian Wings" is awfully vague.

As for Ree, her fake ranch w/its fake happy family is phony. I watch her show sometimes to see what she's cooking but it's increasingly stunt-filled. Unlike Ina Garten, who just has a great palate and yummy recipes and doesn't do stunts.

 
J.l. M. November 4, 2018
"But all Asian Wings" look alike!"
 
Kirstieeeeee May 26, 2019
I agree that Asian food is delicious and varied, and this whole controversy has justifiably landed Ree in hot water. But you don't have to put down American food to praise Asian food though lmao. Cayenne pepper sauce and butter on wings is perfectly delicious in its own right, you just don't have to insult an entire continent to express that appreciation.
 
Nee May 26, 2019
Do you mean the Ina Garten that refused to meet with the kid from the Make A Wish Foundation? You know...the kid with cancer?? That Ina Garten??? She's such a stand up person. Very classy...
 
Jean September 25, 2018
What if she had served buffalo wings and the eaters didn't like them and then she joked that she was only kidding and brought out the "real" Asian wings. Should then the buffaloes be upset or the people from Buffalo be offended? It's food, not a commentary on racial equality. Get over it, Mr and Ms Oversensitives.
 
Sharon July 24, 2018
Oh no, not again. Please don't resurrect this. EVERYONE, put your hands up and step AWAY from the computer. That's it, nice and easy now. That's good. Back up slowly and leave the room. NOW GET YOUR SORRY BUTTS INTO THE KITCHEN AND COOK SOMETHING!
 
Darlene July 24, 2018
Bwahahaha!!! Excellent advice!
 
Shani July 24, 2018
I just ran across this article. I have never watched Food52 or the Pioneer Woman for that matter although I have heard of both. After reading the article and people's comments I tried to think objectively. What I am concluding is that this is just a symptom of a bigger problem. The reason that these "provocations" are popping up over what seems like the slightest thing is that we as a new world culture have a giant pink elephant in the room. Our diversity has been built on a lot of oppression, suppression and denial that has not really been openly talked about and acknowledged. I think when we take a critical look at ourselves and how we got where we are in America today (the good, the bad and the ugly) then we can start healing. We can't suck it up and move on if we are not honest and open about hearing other people's experiences. The more we try to move on without addressing the inequalities that have occurred and continue to occur the more these "provocations" are going to leak into every area of our lives. When you have a wound in one area that has goes untreated for so long it begins to fester and soon the whole body is infected. There are very few people left who are actually native to this country. We almost wiped out an entire nation so that we could escape political, religious and economical oppression. Now we are inflicting that same oppression on others! Oh the irony! Where there is smoke there is fire. Let's help one another put the fires out. More listening, less judging.
 
Keisa F. January 8, 2019
Yes! Well said.
 
Kirstieeeeee May 26, 2019
I totally agree. Thank you for your rational and thoughtful response
 
Steven G. July 24, 2018
Let he who is without sin....

To me this is not a major issue. I'm sure that Ree was not intentionally wanting to disrespect Asians. But what I do take issue with her about is her line of cast iron ware, which is Chinese made, not American made. Lodge is one of a few "old school" cast iron manufacturers that are left over from the o"old days" of cast iron. New manufacturers are appearing (Finex et al). Ree should really consider having an American-based manufacturer of her cast iron line. This Asian issue is not really all that much of a big deal.
 
Michael H. October 21, 2017
RUKM? OMG. THIS IS NOT EVEN CLOSE TO RACISM. THIS IS LIBERAL BASHING OF TRADITIONAL AMERICAN VALUES IS WHAT IT IS. THESE COWBOYS ARE MEAT AND POTATO GUYS. THEY WATCH FOOTBALL, DO WHAT RANCH HANDS DO. I MYSELF THINK SHE MAKES ALOT OF WHAT I CALL CHICK FOOD. IS THAT RACIST AGAINST MEN THICK SKIN DUMPLING IDIOTS? THESE ARE HUNGRY COWBOYS WHO DONT WANT ANYTHING BUT WHAT THEYVE BEEN EXPECTING. BUFFALO WINGS. A KOKE GONE BAD IF THE RACIST LIBERALS NEED TO DESTROY ALL AMERICA. GO FIND A HOBBY RACISTS. GET REAL.
 
Lisa E. March 22, 2017
....hmmm....I think this would be considered fake news. Or in other words truly a non-issue
 
Aleck March 18, 2017
Sometimes a wing is just a wing.
 
creamtea March 15, 2017
She was just messin' with the ranch hands' heads.
One Thanksgiving when we were just married, we went out to a restaurant and I ordered roast beef. I came home, and realized I was turkey-deprived-- not to mention missing my mother's stuffing and sweet potatoes. On any other day of the year I have no interest in turkey. On my Thanksgiving, I want Turkey. On Chanukah, we want latkes. On Passover, we want our braised lemon veal. Since then, I keep to the playbook for certain days of the year. Maybe the other 364 days of the year those cowboys would eat the "Asian" wings. (How authentic were they anyway?) There are certain days of the year you want the same old same old. FWIW my husband and girls want pizza and chips on game day. They eat more interesting (and healthier) food every other day and I'm happy to experiment on them. Incidentally I wouldn't be offended if cowboys turned down a platter of lox and bagels on Game Day. That happens to be my ethnic food. Let them eat Buffalo Wings. Not worth getting into a lather.
 
creamtea March 15, 2017
(and P.S. I grew up in a part of Southern California that was then more rural than it is now. The kids who got off the school bus after me my area, on the outskirts, were cowboys.)
 
Panfusine March 15, 2017
Could not have said it better.
 
creamtea March 15, 2017
thank you, Panfusine!
 
NK42 June 3, 2018
"I wouldn't be offended if cowboys turned down a platter of lox and bagels on Game Day."

How would you feel if one of those cowboys flippantly said, "I don't trust them" after being served Jewish fare?