I’ve never been much of a follower. I wouldn’t call myself a leader either. I’m just kinda….here. I’ve never been afraid to say “no” or be the only one on one side of the fence. Instead of taking someone’s word about a person, a recipe, a restaurant…I would rather draw my own conclusions.
This little character trait came back to bite me in a big way as I fought against being drawn into the phenomenon that is Ree Drummond: The Pioneer Woman. For years friends would forward me her recipes and she was the talk of many a church potluck conversations. But, I stood my ground and resisted the temptation to visit her website. Not because I had anything against her, but because I tend to think that mega-bloggers are way over rated (please don’t send hate mail).
But, one day I stumbled across a post on Facebook by the Pioneer Woman. It was around Christmas time (I think) and she was giving away cowboy boots. Like every self-respecting housewife who loves free stuff would, I followed the link in hopes of winning some boots. Crazy thing is….I don’t wear cowboy boots. Never have. Never will.
The rest is history, as they say. I found myself rushing to thepioneerwoman.com almost daily for recipe ideas. She even threw in these crazy fun quizzes about things like The Wizard of Oz and Meg Ryan. It’s as if she was intentionally luring me in. If that was her plan, it worked.
For the last several years, Ree Drummond’s Sloppy Joes have made their way to our family dinner table once a week, and her to-die-for Pasta Carbonara and Cinnamon Rolls have made me fat (yes…I’m blaming my chubby on Ree).
It wasn’t long after I became a faithful Pioneer Woman follower that she landed her own Food Network Show and a line of kitchen goodies at Wal-Mart. And, she hasn’t slowed down since.
A few months ago, Ree and her family opened the Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. In true, obsessive, creepy-stalker-like fashion, my mom, three daughters and I made the five hour pilgrimage to The Merc. I don’t know if it was the fact that I’d been holed up in my house with the flu for a week, but it seemed like a really great idea to jump in the car at noon on a Thursday and drive to Oklahoma to see first-hand what all the hype was about.
We arrived with an hour to spare before closing time. After taking the required photos in front of the lit “Mercantile” marquis, we made our way inside. I was in a haze as I made laps through the store. The colors. The vintage designs. The cuteness. The Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson playing on the radio. It was too much to take in all at once, but the attention to detail wasn’t lost on me.
We made our way upstairs to the bakery/coffee shop so we could get our caffeine fill before making the 5 hour drive home. I ordered a caramel macchiato…to which the barista responded, “Do you want it like a Starbucks macchiato or a regular macchiato?” Um….I don’t know the difference, so I told him to make it however it tastes best. And, he did. That was one fantastic cup of coffee! It paired perfectly with the cream cheese croissant I devoured.
The girls ordered gigantic rice krispie treats and I took home cookie sandwiches for the rest of my crew. Overall, the treats were delicious! My only complaint was that my pastry had been frozen and was still cold and firm in the center. But, it didn’t keep me from eating it!
While we were enjoying our treats upstairs, my daughter pointed at a man across the room and said, “Is that Pioneer Woman’s husband?” The only man I saw was about 80-years old and weighed about 100 pounds. Um no…that was not the infamous Marlboro Man.
But, as we made our way down stairs, there he was. Marlboro Man in the flesh standing at the bottom of the stairs taking photos with a couple of patrons. Not gonna lie…I got a little giddy. I’ve read Ree’s book “From Black Heels To Tractor Wheels” and know all about Ladd Drummond aka Marlboro Man. We waited for our turn then took a pic with Ree’s beloved. In case you’ve ever wondered…..Yes, his eyes are really that blue in person. And, yes….he’s as kind as you would expect him to be, but much more talkative. (I imagined him as a super quiet, tip-your-hat-instead-of-say-hello kinda guy. But, he was quick to start conversation and answer any questions.)
Part of what attributed to the charm of The Merc was its location. Tiny Pawhuska reminded me of rural Montana where I grew up. I fell in love with it immediately. My only regret is that we didn’t arrive earlier in the day so we could spend more time taking in the town and enjoy a meal at The Merc. Maybe next time, eh? Because…there will most definitely be a next time.
P.S. I never won the cowboy boots, or anything else from Ree. But, I’ll forgive her….only because I’m kissing up in hopes of writing for her world-famous blog. 🙂