A ‘Pioneer Woman’ pandemic
Ree Drummond rides it out with help from chuck roast and black yoga pants
Like many, Food Network star Ree Drummond has learned to adapt since the COVID-19 pandemic began. “It’s been a constant kind of refiguring and rethinking and reframing of everything,” says Drummond, known to fans of her projects — which include a cooking show and recently relaunched blog — as “The Pioneer Woman.” “But, that’s not a bad skill to learn any way, just to be flexible and be open to change.”
Her collection of essays “Frontier Follies Adventures in Marriage and Motherhood in the Middle of Nowhere,” formerly slated for October, has been pushed to November.
“The reason I’m late is because I was all set to kind of dig in and do the bulk of it around the middle of March,” she says with a laugh. “And then everything changed.”
As a result of the outbreak, her teenage sons — Bryce, 17, and Todd, 16 — were out of school. Daughter Paige, 20, left her sophomore year at the University of Arkansas, and the recently engaged Alex, 23, left Dallas to return to the family’s Oklahoma oasis. “Everybody basically came home to the ranch for a good two months,” says Drummond, 51. Thinking also of her husband Ladd and her nephew, Stuart, she observed, “It’s hilarious how much less further the groceries stretch with three boys over 6’2’’ and big humans in the house.”
Her family dined on mac and cheese, chicken quesadillas and a version of a dripbeef sandwich — slow-cooked chuck roast with pepperoncinis, beef broth and Italian seasoning — that proved to be too popular
with her family. “It just became this legendary sandwich in our house,” Drummond recalls. “By the seventh batch of that I was like, ‘OK (laughs), first of all we’re out of chuck roast and second of all, I can’t make this again for a long time.’ ”
Drummond’s family members helped her out by replacing her cooking show crew. In April, Food Network began airing episodes of “The Pioneer Woman” shot by Paige, Alex and Stuart, using their iPhones. An additional dozen of the family-shot episodes will begin airing Saturday.
“It’s good for the time we’re in, I think,” Drummond says of the post-outbreak episodes. ”And it reflects, I think, more accurately where my cooking is on any given day. It’s pretty simple, it’s pretty quick, easy and it’s tasty ’cause I’ve got these picky teenagers to cook for (laughs).”
Drummond’s dressing — as in clothing and not Thanksgiving staple — is also about simplicity. She says she’s been riding out the last few months in what she calls her “pandemic pants.”
“They’re black yoga pants, and I think [it was] the day all the kids came home — I would say it was March 12 or March 13 — and I have not worn anything but black yoga pants since then,” she says of the bottoms she equates to the “clothing version of comfort food.”
“And part of it is that we were home and comfortable, and there was no reason to, but the other part is, I cooked so much and nibbled so much that I was afraid to put on my jeans.” Drummond says she began “exercising a lot” about six weeks ago, and recently tried on her jeans to find “they actually fit pretty nicely. So, I’m feeling better about life (laughs).”
Still, she says her clothing line, which she hopes to launch through her Mercantile store in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and its website by October, will go with her beloved comfy pants. It’s “lots of beautiful florals and vivid colors and nothing that is fitted,” she says with a laugh. “Everything goes really well with pandemic pants.”
Drummond wrote about her “pandemic pants” on her revamped blog, the start of her flourishing empire. As she had more business opportunities and her kids got older, Drummond found she had less time to devote to her site.
“My blog over time had sort of started to wither a little bit just from a lack of attention from me,” she says. “And I realized that at a certain point I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with doing the content all myself.”
She partnered with Hearst, who publishes her Pioneer Woman Magazine, and the new site launched in June. “The difference is just so much more content that I would never in a million years be able to execute myself.”
She says of the new site that “food is certainly the focus,” and naturally, we couldn’t speak to a foodie on the frontier without nabbing a recipe. Drummond has shared the instructions for her Instant Pot BBQ chicken grain bowls, featured in her magazine’s Summer 2020 print issue. She says she loves an Instant Pot for “braised meat of any kind,” noting the appliance’s efficiency.
“I love this recipe because the chicken is done so quickly, the sauce is rich so quickly and then to build a kind of pretty updated bowl out of it is the best of both worlds,” she says. “I love bowls like this because there’s a lot going on and every little bite is different.”
Ree Drummond prepares macaroni and cheese for her family as seen on Food Network’s “The Pioneer Woman.”
Growing up in a town she considered “too small,” Ree Drummond sought the bright lights of a city and considered moving to Chicago, but wound up in an even smaller town where she has built a virtual media empire on the Plains of northeast Oklahoma.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ree Drummond (center, in 2017) saw a lot more of sons Todd (from left), daughter Paige and husband Ladd. With teenagers to feed, she said, “It’s hilarious how much less further the groceries stretch.”