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The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond

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We received an early copy of this book prior to full publication. I knew then it was one worth having. For one thing, it is a true success story of a food blogger who gained widespread attention. For another, it’s simply a great story, told well. So forget the recipes when you first get the book, and sit down to get acquainted with its author. The recipes aren’t bad, either. After all, who can argue with Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes or a dish called Chicken Spaghetti?

Anyone who talks about her “weird and wonderful children” is my kind of woman, especially when she adds, “I love cooking. I love raising a family. And I love country life.” OK, I can do without the country life part, but, then again, she always thought she could, too. This book is about the possibilities that life holds when you drop your preconceived notions—about people, and about food.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks ties recipes to family life like no other cookbook I know. There is a reason for her cooking, and it’s quite simply this: to feed her family. Maybe it’s life in the country that helps you boil it all down to the essentials of why we cook, who we cook for, and how we cook.

Therein lies the beauty of this book. It teaches the “how” of cooking in full illustrations, taken by the author in her home kitchen using natural light. You see the hollowed out potato skins as she brushes them with oil. You see the cheese as it’s grated. You see how to place the skins so they get crispy, and you see the finished product in all its glory, filled with bacon and topped with sour cream and green onion slices.

These aren’t recipes for the dainty; let’s just get that on the table. In fact, one of her photo essays shows her “Marlboro Man” in a pink shirt and specifies that he says, “it’s a red shirt that faded in the wash”). As you see him and their friends and family at work, you’ll know why the cookbook has recipes for Comfort Meatballs, and Skillet Cornbread, Meatloaf and Chicken Fried Steak. But it also has Sherried Tomato Soup, French Breakfast Puffs and Hot Artichoke Dip.

You wouldn’t call Ree Drummond a chef, and these meals aren’t found in any molecular gastronomy restaurant. But they are found in most homes around the United States, and there are just days when we need a recipe for Simple, Perfect Chili. On those days, this is the book to turn to.

In fact, this is a book about unabashedly loving your family and loving to cook for them, and it’s worth keeping on your bookshelf for that alone. But take it down from time to time and try one of the recipes. It’ll make you feel good knowing you aren’t the only one who cares about the best things in life.

You can buy The Pioneer Woman Cooks via this link.

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