Not Pioneer Woman

Monday, May 9, 2011

One of the articles I read about blogging before I started blogging talked about things to avoid and said don’t apologize for not blogging. So I’m not going to apologize for not blogging, and I remain hopeful that I can get back in a groove.

I was reading the New Yorker yesterday and there was an article about Pioneer Woman and her media empire. I had heard of Pioneer Woman, though I actually thought it was something different — I thought it was an actual person who lived a life without a lot of modern conveniences. Like that PBS series.

That is not what it is.

I almost got sucked into looking at it last night but managed to escape and start working on what I was supposed to be working on, but I did look at it today and checked out the cooking section and the main thing I have to say is holy cow that’s a lot of pictures for one recipe. Wow.

Also, um, it seems kind of tedious.

And repetitive.

And not that interesting.

With lots of things that are on a line by themselves.

People like this?

I also looked at Pioneer Woman Sux, which was referenced in the New Yorker article and that’s much more to my taste. I love that the “About” paragraph has a picture of Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman, not the author of Pioneer Woman Sux) and says “Oh, and sometimes I like to post drunk.” I also love that there is a post called “Well slap my ass and call me Judy.” Though those both may be part of the parody and I just haven’t read Pioneer Woman enough to get it.

The Marlboro Woman is pretty rockin too, as is Pie Near Woman.

So basically I’ll just skip the real thing and go straight to the parodies.

But when I read the New Yorker article yesterday, I felt a small pang of missed opportunity. Every time I read about people making a million dollars from their blog I feel like I totally blew my chance at fame and fortune and blogging stardom by not cashing in on my People magazine/Good Morning America/Rachael Ray/Inside Edition whirlwind. Never mind that blogging fame and fortune involves (a) selling advertising, which goes against my values (b) partnering with large corporations to sell things while pretending you’re not, which should go against everyone’s values but apparently does not, and (c) extensively chronicling your day-to-day personal life, which I not only find disconcerting and generally creepy but would also require me to make things up, as my day-to-day life is not nearly interesting enough to sustain any kind of ongoing narrative. (Today I tried to figure out how to run a payroll in Quickbooks! And the taxes didn’t calculate the way they were supposed to! So I called tech support and was on the phone for two hours!

All the Photoshop in the world couldn’t turn that into something anyone wanted to look at.)

It also apparently requires photogenic children, a husband who is a millionaire, having no problem posting recipes you got from somewhere else that you claim to have made up yourself and then selling a cookbook of without referencing the original source, and an army of public relations professionals to maintain your site and manage your book deals and tv shows.

I guess blogging fame and fortune is just going to have to wait.

At least until I finish getting the Quickbooks payroll set up.

But in an effort to make it up to you, I’ll give you a recipe that is not related to anything in this post, and that I did not make up myself.

This recipe is from my favorite Marion Cunningham cookbook The Supper Book. They’re a little bit like brownies, especially if you undercook them. Sadly I do not have even one picture of them, much less step-by-step documentation, because I was making them to eat, not for the blog.

I’m a long, long way from Pioneer Woman.

Thank god.

In the words of Marion Cunningham, “These little chocolate domes, crackled on top, are crisp outside and slightly chewy inside. These are nice, rich cookies after a supper salad.”

They’re really good, and they are in fact quite photogenic, so if I make them again, I’ll try to remember to get some pix.

Black and White Chocolate Cookies

3 ounces (3 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Put the chocolate in a pan over barely simmering water until it has melted. Remove from the heat.

Put the sugar, butter, chocolate, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and stir to blend. Add the eggs and mix briskly until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Don’t grease the cookie sheets.

Sift the confectioners’ sugar onto a large piece of waxed paper. Shape the cookie dough into rounded teaspoon-size balls and roll them in the confectioners’ sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the top of the cookies feels almost firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the cookie sheets. Cool on racks.

17 Responses to “Not Pioneer Woman”

  1. Lorrie Says:

    It’s funny, but I like both your blog, because it makes me think and I have found some wonderful recipes on it, and the Pioneer Woman blog, because it is funny and entertaining and I have found lots of great recipes on it. That said, I could never blog like Ree Drummond. I am a much more private person than that. I would probably blog more like you and never make money from it. I think the world can handle many different kinds of blogs. More power to them if they can make some money from them.

    Signed, A Big Fan of Yours :)

  2. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for the love.

    I’m actually not going to dis Pioneer Woman too much, I think whatever people want to do is fine and if people like it and it gives good info then that’s all good. I think becoming a “brand” is always going to be problematic if you’re blogging about your life, because once you get hugely successful, you get really busy just managing that, which means you don’t have time to do anything that you were doing when you were writing about your life, which is what people came there for in the first place. So I think that would be really hard to maintain, and I can totally see how you’d end up doing the same things over and over.

    I actually admire how Amy Dacyzyn handled things with the Tightwad Gazette. She decided to publish a book, put everything into that, then stopped doing the newsletter and went back to her happy life.

    You just have to figure out when to get off the train. That is, if the train ever comes in the first place. Which for most people it doesn’t.

  3. Lorrie Says:

    You’re welcome! I think that reading Pioneer Woman is like reading an entertaining novel, while reading your blog is like reading good nonfiction. I think that you are absolutely right about Amy Dacyzyn. I actually got her newsletter for a few years. I was disappointed when she quit writing it, but agree that it was good timing for her. Another blog that I recently discovered that I enjoy is Choosing Voluntary Simplicity. Check it out if you have time. I have a feeling that you will like it.

  4. Robin Says:

    I really don’t understand this thing the cooking websites have about step-by-step photos. I mean, I know what a chopped onion looks like. And I know what it looks like after you brown in olive oil. And after you stir in some tomatoes…. Now Rachel Ray is flogging a book called “look + cook,” which claims to have a picture of every single step in every recipe. Apparently people not only don’t know how to cook; we don’t know how to read either.

    Love your blog and the fact that when you post a recipe, you do it with words and one delicious-looking photo of the finished product.

  5. Ruby Leigh Says:

    Also, you forgot – to become a blogger you must be an aspiring photographer and own a Mark III or better or a Nikon. You must also have very strong feeling about which ever of those you own.

    mmm Amy Dacyzyn … she’s great. Much better than Pioneer Woman.

    Although, I have to say I follow PWs blog (just the recipes section though). Most of them look delicious, as you do get plenty of photos. Also, I think she comes off more down to earth than many food bloggers (though not really done to earth for real).

  6. Jo Says:

    Also, um, it seems kind of tedious.

    And repetitive.

    And not that interesting.

    With lots of things that are on a line by themselves.

    Oh, Gawd, spare me. Pioneer Woman is the most boring blog out there. It says more about her followers than it does about her, that she actually has become famous and successful. Her children are not all that attractive, either. I guess that’s why God invented photoshop.

    Trust me, you haven’t missed anything. Amanda Fortini of the New Yorker did not seem to be all that impressed either.

  7. lessisenough Says:

    I actually can’t believe the food styling on most of the food blogs I’ve looked at, it’s amazing. I didn’t even have a camera when I was doing the Dollar a Day project. I borrowed a friend’s, which was an old, totally basic Kodak Easy Shot that she got from a friend who worked for Kodak. At one point, one of my friends looked at the blog and was like wait, what are you taking pictures with? She knew I didn’t own a camera. (I do have a camera now.)

  8. lessisenough Says:

    Yeah, I thought the New Yorker article was interesting, it wasn’t critical, but it wasn’t exactly glowing either. It was more like look, here is this really popular blog, and here is some of what’s behind it. I definitely like the parodies more than the original.


  9. Thanks for dropping by. Your cookie recipe looks delish!

    My take on “The New Yorker” article posts tomorrow morning. Glad to see PW’s sockpuppets haven’t shown up to defend her honor and foment a comment war on your site.

    I’ll put you on my RSS feed.

  10. PipneyJane Says:

    The short answer is, no, I’ve never figured out how to make a blog pay, either. Of the handful that do, they’re mainly writers who talk about their primary field of interest (e.g. the Yarn Harlot).

    Anyway, I’m an accountant – I would find the trials and tribulations of setting up a payroll in Quickbooks interesting. (Sad muppet, aren’t I?)

    – pam


  11. I guess I’ve seen a bit of the blogging chasm. Ruby was right about the camera. The “real” bloggers have a fancy camera and great photography skills, and a lot of the blogging tips out there to get more traffic suggest better photos.

    They also suggest marketing yourself – and I guess if what you want to be is your own brand, then, have at it. But I’d venture that very few people are savvy enough and photogenic enough and good enough at choosing and marketing their niche to become good at it.

    I bought PW’s “romance novel”. I really enjoyed reading it (read a lot of it online) and she made me laugh out loud. But for the most part, I’m not interested in her cooking. She seems like an interesting person, but as one of the anti-PW blogs noted, she’s not particularly “real”.

    I’m just an engineer and a mom who loves food and likes to blog. I sometimes get 5 comments, and sometimes go weeks with none. I’m okay with that.

  12. Amy B Says:

    Coming late to this discussion…I was watching bad TV the other night, a reality show that brings entrepenuers in front a panel of investor judges to pitch their ideas and win financial support for their project.

    One segment featured two men who sell T shirts at country music shows with the logo Hillbilly on them. They use country “hotties” (their word) to draw people to their tent, as well as a live band playing to create a “part.” Then, they sell folks a tee shirt. With the Hillbillylogo on it.

    This great idea netted them $50,000 in investment money. For a logo. It reminded me of the “Life is Good” tee shirts, water bottles and caps you see marketed. It almost seems like the simpler the idea, the more money it makes. A tee shirt. With a logo on it. Ca Ching! Crazy.

  13. Amy B Says:

    sorry, “party” They create a party atmosphere with live music and pretty girls to sell t shirts.

  14. lessisenough Says:

    Well it sounds like they haven’t actually made any money yet — they got $50,000 in investment money, which they will have to spend on t-shirts and advertising. And country hotties. But who knows, could be the next big thing.

    There’s something called Hillbilly Bob’s Soda that’s sold at fairs and festivals in North Carolina and surrounding areas. It’s served in a giant tin can filled with ice, so it’s super cold, and it is really, really good, especially when you’re really hot and really thirsty. (I had it once when I was working at a festival in Matthews, NC, when I was unable to procure free water — something I can nearly always do; it was a Sunday and every idea I had for water fountains came up with locked doors or otherwise unavailable. By the time I broke down and decided to buy something I was pretty desperate and I swear it was it the best thing I’ve ever had.)

    A couple of years later I’m working at Showfest (trade show for NC/SC fairs and festivals) and Hillbilly Bob himself is walking around the show in his overalls with a straw hat and we get to talking and it turns out that Hillbilly Bob spent his career as an engineer at IBM, he took early retirement and started the soda company. I thought that was pretty hilarious. He said he grew up in Kentucky, he came by the hillbilly thing honestly, but still I thought it was funny. Hillbilly Bob’s Soda sounds a lot better than Retired IBM Engineer Bob’s Soda.

  15. Amy B Says:

    That’s a great story! I hope Hillbilly Bob trademarked his name, because the Hillybilly tee shirt peple are afixin’ to make a boatload of money off a simple logo.


  16. I’m not sure how I found you but so happy I did and this post completely resonated with me.

    I love food blogs but find all the photos of “look at me cutting butter into cubes”, “look at my knife” and “look at me stirring” as you said “tedious, repetitive and not that interesting.”

    Your comment about making things up about day to day life since daily life is not that interesting and not necessarily what you want to share made me laugh! (I feel your pain about Quickbooks!)

    So many times I think something and go “I could share this but it is stupid, inane and not really something I want to share with the greater world. That’s not what blogging is about – or it’s not what I want mine to be about.”

    Thank you for the inspiration – I’m very new and blogging pretty much only for myself and I think that’s okay.

  17. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for the comment, and sorry about the delay in getting it up. I was taking a few days off.

    I think that different people have different reasons for blogging. And to be honest, I’m not really sure what mine is. Except that sometimes there are things that are funny that seem worth writing about, or I cook something that’s good and tell someone I’ll send it to them, and it’s just as easy to type up the recipe and post it as it is to type it and email it. Also I like that many of my favorite recipes are now on the blog so when I’m away from home and want to make something, I can just pull it up.

    I know that some people check their stats and try to see who is reading and what the demographic is but I never check my stats at all. I was actually totally weirded out in the beginning when I was doing the Dollar a Day Project and all these people I didn’t know started reading it. And I had set up the subscribe button but then forgotten all about it, I didn’t think about the fact that once people subscribe, they’re subscribed. I didn’t write much and then wrote something and people commented and I was like wait, why are you people still here? I figured everyone would have left and just people who knew me would be reading again. Then I realized that people were still getting the posts in their email.

    But even with that. I really like to think that the only people reading it are the few people who make comments to me personally about something I wrote — like my mom and a couple other friends. As far as I’m concerned, this blog has five readers (and honestly, for all I know, it does).

    Basically I feel like I can’t worry about who is reading it or what they’re looking for or how many people are reading. I just need to write what I want to write and if people want to read it, they can read it and if they don’t, they can go read something else. And if I don’t feel like writing any more, I won’t.

    And I think that’s the best way to do it.


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