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.")

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.

159 Comments

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. <br /><br />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.<br /><br />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.<br /><br />
 
J.l. M. November 4, 2018
"But all Asian Wings" look alike!"
 
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.
 
Steven G. July 24, 2018
Let he who is without sin....<br /><br />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. <br />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."<br /><br />How would you feel if one of those cowboys flippantly said, "I don't trust them" after being served Jewish fare?
 
Tran March 14, 2017
I'm Vietnamese and I don't find the clip itself to be insensitive, for what it's worth. And Food Network is always one of my favorite things. But I do wonder if I'm the only Asian that finds it grating (and confusing) when "Asian flavor" is referenced on any show as if the thousands of years of distinct culinary histories all have one single flavor profile ie. soy sauce, ginger and sesame. My hope is that if people can tell Peruvian from Mexican with enough exposure, they will also come to understand food from each Asian country - each local region even - is all distinctive and delicious.
 
Amelia S. March 15, 2017
I'm not Asian, but I've spent time in a handful of Asian countries and I also find the whole idea of "Asian flavor" irksome. There is no such thing!
 
athy March 14, 2017
Much of an Ado about nothing!!! We have a whole lot more to be worry about. This in my simple mind is just absurd. With such a successful show,<br />why would she go out of her way to cause controversy. These are ranch hands that like their food the way they have always had it.
 
witloof March 14, 2017
Not "everyone" is mad at The Pioneer Woman. I most certainly am not. I agree with the poster who suggested that the context for the joke was that she cooks for people who don't like to eat food with which they are not already familiar, and not a gratuitous slur against the cuisine of another culture. People who choose to take offense when none was meant are tiresome. This kind of discussion is uncharacteristic of, and beneath, Food52.
 
milkjam March 14, 2017
mmurray, your words are what I would have written if I had your ability and thoughtfulness.When you strive for provocation, you get provocation. All a growing number of people need is an opening. Please stop giving this opening.<br />Food52 is to me, a refuge from the gratuitous and inflammatory beast that all too often is the internet.
 
mmurray March 14, 2017
Something I wonder about is whether Food52 has decided that sometimes it just needs to be provocative just to be provocative for whatever reason and this contributor always seems to fit the bill being what at least I have read to be the most extensive, controversial and emphatic comments. I read and follow his articles to try to be fair and have an open mind and every once in a while I say to myself "ah, Mayukh, nice...a lovely sensitive, informational article and less "provocative". I agree with all the posters who say there are enough sites for provocative. Inform me; teach me; engage me. Let me engage in nice, civil discussion and opinion and not attack or condemn. Tell me how to cook better, find better ways to cook what I know; show me pretty and useful things to buy to enrich my life in the kitchen. Honestly there is especially now so much of that provocative now everywhere else. I agree as to why do we feel the need to attack a site that seems to take issue with a TV SHOW. I honestly thought (and hoped) this site was beyond that. These articles which seem (at least to me) to just provoke.(and yes, starting with the provocative titles) do seem to be that just for provocative sake. It's too bad if we have to limit our exposure to articles on this site because of the unnecessary provocative nature of some articles and the unnecessarily nasty, vitriolic and close-minded comments. really too bad.
 
Becky March 14, 2017
I watch the show a lot and while I see how this can be offensive to some, I also think it's unfairly taken out of context. Throughout the show and the blog, Drummond has frequently poked fun at the fact that her husband isn't a very adventurous eater, even (Drummond jokes) refusing to eat dishes with wine in them. This was yet another part of that running theme rather than an intentionally anti-Asian move.
 
Lindsay-Jean H. March 14, 2017
We love lively discussions, but we want to keep Food52 a welcoming and respectful place. Please remember to stay respectful and keep responses to the topic at hand rather than attacks or judgments about other people (whether the subject of an article, the members of our team, or your fellow Food52ers)—we will remove any comments that are abusive or otherwise violate our Terms.
 
Nancy March 14, 2017
Nice idea, Lindsay-Jean.<br />But have never seen your "Terms" and a quick look at the bottom of the page shows no link.<br />Maybe post them prominently, both on the Features page and Hotline. <br />Or direct us to where we can see them.
 
Lindsay-Jean H. March 14, 2017
Hi Nancy, you can find a link to them at the bottom left of the page (or right here: https://food52.com/terms).
 
Nancy March 14, 2017
OK, LJ, I found them. <br />BUt/and they are so long and detailed. Look like they were written by lawyers, and are the things you click "yes" on without reading to get new phone or software.<br />Recommend you make them simpler, have a link that's easier to find and rename them, or make a separate section, simply "Terms for Commenters and Contributors".
 
SKK March 14, 2017
Please respond to my question. <br />As a member of Food52 since 2011, my understanding of the purpose of Food52 is "Helping people become smarter, happier and better cooks." How does this article forward the purpose?
 
Lindsay-Jean H. March 14, 2017
Hi SKK -- As Kenzi noted, we believe it's important—and relevant—to start these types of conversations, in this case, about the different meanings foods have to different people. Sharing current topics in an even-handed way, and learning from each other’s opinions on them, certainly plays into making sure we’re all encouraging each other to be as thoughtful as possible about the food we cook and eat.
 
beth.nelson1 March 14, 2017
But this article did nothing to start a conversation about the different meanings foods have to different people. What important or relevant conversation do you think was started by this article? Reading through all the comments it is abundantly clear that the vast majority disagree with these kind of click bait articles.
 
SKK March 15, 2017
I agree with beth.nelson1. And you did not answer my question as to how the article forwarded the stated purpose? There was no important or relevant conversation that came out of this article. It did not make me become a "smarter, happier and better cook." It created upset in a community that has an intent to come together. And this topic was not presented in an even-handed way. If that was the case the title would have not been "Why is Everyone Mad at Pioneer Woman?" It would have been something like "Re-thinking Food Network" I am disappointed by editors' response to this piece.
 
BerryBaby March 14, 2017
I watched this, more than once, it's an older episode that has been shown many times. Ree was playing a joke with the cowboys that was it. She makes Asian dishes often. Like the episode where she makes Chinese takeout for her and her daughter. The men were acting, all FN shows are scripted and there was nothing intented other than making two versions of wings and fooling the men. FN shows more reruns than new shows. Check the dates...many are from 2008 or earlier.
 
scott.finkelstein.5 March 14, 2017
I feel like pretty much everything said in the article could have fit into a title. It's just that "blog angry that old TV episode shows some people not likeing recipe presented as 'asian'" wouldn't have actually attracted any clicks, unlike the current inaccurate and uninformative specimen.
 
Sharon March 13, 2017
Gee golly, can't even check my email today without a dozen new posts from Food52 jamming my inbox! Don't know how ANYONE can say this isn't "click-bait" when it's clearly baited everyone to click on it. How long are we going to chew on this nonsensical cud?