Thanks to my blogger friend extraordinaire, the illustrious Miss Wisabus, I scored an invitation to one of the greatest tv events to hit rural Oklahoma in the history of television — Food Network’s Throwdown Thanksgiving 2010 special featuring none other than The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.
It was great to drive up with Miss Wis and her hubby for two reasons: 1) plenty of time for catching up and 2) she had the quickest set of driving directions from the Pioneer Woman herself. After a peaceful and gorgeous drive, we parked, handed in our confidentiality agreements, and caught a ride down the hill to the Lodge to wait for…we didn’t know what exactly.
All the invitation said was that it was some sort of tv taping with the Pioneer Woman. We didn’t care. It’s a thing, and we wanted to be there to find out more. We took turns taking guesses all the way. But in my mind, all I could imagine was that what I would be doing would be sitting in a chair in the back of a small studio audience while the Pioneer Woman cooked up something yummy. So I just dressed Oklahoma formal (clean jeans and a t-shirt), brushed my hair, and put on some eye shadow. Voila! All ready for that seat on the back row, and maybe, just maybe, I’d get an introduction to Ree.
As if they were part of the script, Ree’s mother and mother-in-law greeted us from rockers on the porch. The crew instructed us to wait outside. In Oklahoma. Ladies–you know what this means. So, exactly why did I brush my hair today? (And Miss Wis was kind enough to remind me that the Food Network broadcasts in HD.) It was getting close to lunch time as the guests rolled in, and I began wishing I’d brought something non-carbish to eat. Foodies (bloggers), restaurant owners, Food Network related peeps, and Culinary Institute students mingled on the deck with drinks waiting for the crew to give the green light to go inside.
Sneaking in to visit the ladies’ room, I saw the room they were preparing was a huge kitchen, but it was no tv studio. And there were no chairs. Maybe they just hadn’t gotten that far.
Nope. No chairs when they let us in. They shuffled us forward to a blue tape line, started “warming” us up by putting the camera in our wind-blown, non-notified faces, and told us nothing except to “look here” and “look there” and that Ree would be with us shortly.
Finally, she arrived. The crew didn’t have to ask us to applaud.
Ree was all glowy with happiness and excitement and stylin’ in her gorgeous empire waist blouse. She graciously welcomed us, waved at Miss Wis, and then with all of us and her family gathered around her, she told us she’d be cooking Thanksgiving and got started.
Those sneaky so-and-sos.
In walks Bobby Flay interrupting out of nowhere.
And the crowd went wild.
Now here’s the part where you start to understand the title of my post. This is the part where I make the most embarrassing admission yet and my yet-to-be-launched career in Hollywood ends abruptly.
Yes, I cheered along with the room full of culinary experts. But I had to turn to Miss Wis and ask her, “Who’s that?”
The crew caught the moment and then gave us a break. Sort of. They shouldered their cameras and came around for close-up reactions still in play while they continued set-ups. At which point my conversation with Miss Wis went something like this:
“Bobby Flay. It’s a Throwdown.”
“What’s a Throwdown?”
At which point, I realize there’s a camera pointed straight at me, and what’s soooooo much worse, a mic. So now you know the painful truth. I don’t have cable. I’m a Food Network virgin.
Though my moment of shame is not likely to be edited into the Throwdown special, someone somewhere in tv land has footage worthy of blackmail to hold over me. Please don’t tell TMZ.
The taping followed, where we were packed in tight, overheating from lights and no a/c, and what’s left of any make-up on my face was melting. Now I know how the Wicked Witch felt. I am strictly a behind the camera kind of girl.
You know what it’s like on Thanksgiving Day when you have one cinnamon roll for breakfast and the women don’t get into the kitchen to really start cooking till 12:00 and the food’s not actually on the table till 3:00 and you are so hungry your stomach begins to eat itself? It was just like that. Fifty hungry strangers gathered ‘round drooling and oooing and awwing at two teams slaving over two of the most delicious feasts to ever grace a Thanksgiving table. Arrgh!
We stood there for about five hours. And me with my “I’m going to meet Ree Drummond shoes” on. My little piggies were screaming so loud you could probably hear them on tv. Thus, the second part of the title: After hour 4 ½, the three of us decided to get smart and have a seat on a nearby sofa while the chefs did their thing. It’s safe to say we crashed.
Then it was finally time to eat. Seriously, folks. I relished every bite. Well, except for the brussel sprout I swallowed out of repentance to Bobby. I. Had. Thanksgiving. Dinner. Cooked. By. Bobby. Flay. And. Ree. Drummond.
But it wasn’t over yet. We had another surprise in store. They squished us in again, cowboy hats (and me) in the middle, and brought out the judges for the wrap-up. In walks Trisha Yearwood, and you could have knocked us all over with a feather. That’s why we were all squished in, of course. So if we fainted we wouldn’t fall.
You’ve seen the judges verdict. Now for mine.
Bobby’s Thanksgiving Dinner:
Turkey – Not much flavor, and not as moist as I like.
Dressing – Very tasty. Very tasty indeed. But it’s not for Thanksgiving.
Brussel sprouts – No, no, no, no, no. No. Those pomegranates gave their lives in vain.
Cranberry sauce – Absolutely heavenly. Huge blackberries, light, tangy. Perfect. Miss Wis and I agreed we wanted to use it as compote over ice cream. Right then.
Pumpkin bread pudding – I loathe bread pudding. But if I was stranded on a dessert, I mean, desert island and could only choose one thing to take to eat, it would be this. Ah-mazing. But not practical fare for Thanksgiving at my house. It wouldn’t keep well out on the sideboard.
Ree’s Thanksgiving Dinner:
Turkey – More moist and flavorful than Bobby’s. But still doesn’t compare to my mom’s.
Dressing – Not my favorite. I’m a traditional girl. Don’t put grapes in my chicken salad. Don’t put cibatta or mushrooms in my cornbread dressing. Don’t stray from the formula.
Mashed potatoes – I can die happy now. Best I’ve ever eaten. Period. Sorry, Cracker Barrel.
Cranberry sauce – Good. But Bobby’s wins this category.
Pecan pie – Really fabulous. But still doesn’t compare to my aunt’s.
Tough call, but overall, Ree wins. Two of the three most important dishes on the Thanksgiving table — the turkey and mashed potatoes — put her over the top. And also, Trisha Yearwood hit the nail on the head: It still comes down to practicality. And if it’s remotely complicated, or unliked by many family members, or it won’t keep well on the sideboard to enjoy throughout the day it just won’t work. Don’t stray from the formula. At least in my house. Or in Oklahoma.
Those are just my own honest personal opinions, which I declined to give on camera, thank you very much. But the bottom line here is: Two of the top cooks on the planet just fed me the best meal of the year. Each. Who cares what I thought of the dressing? It was the tastiest experience I’ve ever been honored to attend.
And now all that’s left for me to do is crawl under the table in sheer and utter introvert horror that I ended up on national tv. Without any lipstick on. Honestly. It was never my dream to look like a vampire in front of millions of people. Sheesh. I do solemnly promise that if I ever get cable I will always watch the Food Network. As long as they solemnly promise to never put me on camera again.
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Now having viewed the show for myself I realize there were a few priceless moments that were left on the cutting room floor. So here you go:
Ree is hilarious. She’s sweet and very funny. Early in our time together she made a fabulous comment about wearing her Spanks that I knew would make amazing tv because every woman in America could relate…and be so impressed that a woman like her would be brave enough to talk about it on national tv. Se la vie.
When the brussel sprouts entered the discussion, so did our violent crowd reaction. Bobby had a lot of love in that room, but he could have been stoned. The show gives you a one shot of a lady looking admiringly at him when what really happened were moans and groans. Polite moans and groans, of course. I, however, not being an actress or on-camera-anything could not hide my true feelings. They deliberately shot our reactions two or three times, in which I actually covered my mouth…like I would if I were feeling seasick. Now that was good tv. But se la vie.
You heard Trisha’s comment about how they say “pecan” in Georgia. The minute she said that I went greener than I had from the thought of eating a brussel sprout. It was the moment – at the end of hours of taping – where I realized this was a national broadcast, and potentially my ex could be watching. I really should take some lessons on how to not let everything show on my face. Hallelujah…se la vie.
And then there were two things not caught on camera that I wouldn’t want you to miss:
First, I did get to meet Ree. After Thanksgiving Dinner was made, the stars took a break to cool down and get dolled up for the judging portion while our little audience enjoyed the fruits of their labor. After we ate, Miss Wis wanted to say a quick thank you to Ree for including her in the invitation to be a part of this special event. So I tagged along and said a quick hello. She certainly needed a break from the heat of the kitchen, so we didn’t hang very long, but it was great to have the opportunity to meet our hostess.
I also played a roll on the crew – uncredited, of course. During the judging portion we were all dripping with sweat (glistening was long a thing of the past by this point), packed in like cattle. Poor Ree could hardly fan herself without whacking someone next to her, so I picked up her hair and waved her neck while Miss Wis blew. ‘Or something.’ (See Twitter.) Assistant Sweat Reducer/Hair Wrangler would look nice on my IMDb page, no?
That’s not all, folks. Come back soon for another update featuring links to my new foodie friends posts about their experiences at the Throwdown taping!
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Here’s a little link luv for my blogger friends posts on their experience at the taping. Enjoy!