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Customer Review

108 of 143 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't meet my expectations, November 24, 2009
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This review is from: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl (Hardcover)
Ree cooks the kind of food many of us grew up eating (or wish we did!). It's not trendy. It's the kind of food my family likes to eat, though I'll admit that I've not tried many of her recipes. I've been cooking since I was in high school -- before Ree was born -- and many of the recipes she presents are virtually identical to recipes I've been cooking for years. Of the recipes I have tried, only half have been "keepers" and the other half have fallen into the "please don't make this again" category. I've only tried one of the new recipes from the book and it wasn't a keeper. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; I don't expect to love or want to try every recipe in a cookbook. I've had the most success with her brisket and southwestern recipes. One of my favorite things about the recipes is that Ree doesn't rely heavily on manufactured ingredients. They're not absent, but there's not a heavy use of them.

I expected to love this cookbook and I'm so disappointed that I don't. I expected more from this cookbook, not more of the same. On her website and in the introduction to the book she said that there were several old favorites and many new recipes. There are only 65 recipes in this book; 38 have already appeared on her website.

One of my complaints about this cookbook is the same one I have with many current cookbooks: it's not user-friendly. It's not a book that is easy to take into the kitchen and use. This is more like a coffee table book and I'm afraid I'll splatter food on it while cooking.

If you're familiar with Ree's blog, it's almost impossible not to compare it with the book. I like the blog better!

I'm not a fan of the step-by-step photos. On the web site, I can skip past all the photos and get to a recipe summary. In the book, there's no recipe summary. With pictures, most of the recipes are 3 pages long and some are longer. I find the photos to be more of a nuisance than helpful. However, I think they're helpful to new cooks. I faithfully read the comments to Ree's recipes and I've come to realize that there are many people who aren't knowledgeable, skilled, or confident in the kitchen. If you didn't grow up watching and helping someone in your home cook meals daily, the pictures will probably be most helpful.

I don't appreciate all the fluff in this book -- the pictures and stories of life on the ranch, Marlboro Man, punks, other family and friends, cattle, horses and dogs plus lots of color (borders at the top and bottom of every recipe page) and clip art with every recipe. It's very distracting. When a book is billed as a cookbook, I expect recipes.

The recipes are good examples of basic home cooking. I realize that there are a lot of people who don't know how to cook basic dishes and for them this is a good cookbook. For experienced home cooks with their favorite versions of pot roast, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and so on, there's little new or exciting. As I said above, many of Ree's recipes are virtually identical to those I've been cooking for years. I check Ree's cooking site frequently, but I'm looking for the rare new thing or a better version of something I already make.

The majority of the recipes serve 6-8 or more. I almost never cook for more than 3 people, so I have to cut everything down to a more reasonable number of servings. This is something I'm used to doing, but if you don't like doing the math or eating a lot of leftovers, it could be a problem.

Ree says that her cooking is "decidedly not non-caloric." She's right. I don't find this to be a problem, but I do watch the portions. If someone is looking for what many Americans believe is "healthy" cooking, this isn't the book for them. There's a lot of bacon, beef and butter!

I'm amazed at the number of 5-star reviews for this cookbook. I think they have a lot more to do with Ree's popularity than with the content of the book. In terms of how much is there and how good it is, it's a good cookbook, but it's certainly not great. I feel cheated because over 50% of the recipes and 75% of the total content of the book is available for free at her website. I can't think of another cookbook author who could deliver so little and get rave reviews for it.

I'm also surprised by the fact that she didn't acknowledge or thank her many readers. Without them, she probably wouldn't have been able to publish this book, have it be in Amazon's top 100 long before it was published and received so much publicity.

There's not a lot here for experienced cooks or those who follow her blog. It's a better book for beginners and those unfamiliar with her blog -- and who don't mind all the fluff included. There's too much visually distracting, extraneous material and too few recipes.

UPDATE: It's been a year since the book was published and my opinion of it hasn't changed. I've discovered that all the pictures with a recipe make me think the recipe is far more difficult or time consuming than it is. As much as I dislike all the pictures on the blog, I dislike them even more in the book. I think they make the book much more difficult to use. There are now more recipes from the book on her blog. When she publishes her next cookbook, I'll look at it closely at the bookstore before I buy.
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Comments

Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 29 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 4, 2009 11:12:02 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 4, 2009 11:14:41 AM PST
JacksGirl says:
I'm sorry if I sound witchy here, but I am about the same age as you are. I have many cookbooks, as I am sure you do, and have cooked for many years.

This is a different kind of book - not just a cookbook, but a reflection of what you see on her website, which is eclectic and entertaining. The recipes I have tried have been very good.

I can't believe you cross-checked her website to see which ones has already appeared there. Let's be real - every cookbook, even Julia Child's and Martha Stewart's - include recipes that have appeared elsewhere, either in another cookbook, magazine, or on television. It is a measure of her generosity that she has provided these recipes for free for many years, and she hasn't held back, as far as I can see. That way, everyone has access to them, even if they won't or can't buy her cookbook. By the way, you will never get a cookbook by other authors for the price of this one.

Don't be such a nitpicker. It seems you went out of your way to find every little thing you could to criticize.

Posted on Dec 10, 2009 3:42:55 PM PST
Thanks for given such an honest and even-handed review, and for not being afraid to express your disappoinment in the book.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2009 10:43:05 AM PST
Stella,
I am considering purchasing this cookbook and found the review incredibly helpful BECAUSE she was so thorough. It's not called nitpicking when giving a review. It's called providing other customers with useful, detailed information, and I appreciated it very much. I can't believe how much her fans are giving people with critical opinions so much trouble. Makes me reconsider making the purchase.

Posted on Dec 14, 2009 5:39:53 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 17, 2009 5:19:30 AM PST
I'm also a fan of Ree's -- I'm just not thrilled with the cookbook. I read all the other reviews before I wrote mine and it seemed to me that many were based on emotion and love of Ree/Pioneer Woman rather than actual reviews of the book. They didn't tell me a lot about the book. There were numerous comments about how few recipes were in the book and how many of them were repeats from the blog -- so I decided to take a few minutes and count the recipes in the book and how many of them appeared on her blog.

Stella, I think some of the things you see as nitpicking are things I see as observations. I asked myself, "What would I want to know about this book?" I'd want to know that it's much like a coffee table book, that their aren't a lot of recipes, most are 1) 3 pages long, and 2) on the website, that there's a lot of extraneous and visually distracting material. I find the step-by-step photos to be annoying at best and I don't like having to wade through all of them to make a simple recipe.

I would have been much happier with the book, even with all the repeat recipes, if it had been more like the cooking section of her website and less a reflection of the whole website. I wanted just a cookbook. I'd rather have more recipes and less other content. While I certainly am in the minority, there's more about this book that I don't like than there is that I do like. However, I do like the recipes even if I don't like the format.

Thanks for your comments!

Posted on Dec 31, 2009 11:31:03 AM PST
C. Murphy says:
Are you kidding me?? Put the book up for sale and I'll buy it for five bucks! In all seriousness, I received it from my daughter for Christmas, as she did from me. I have cooked for many years and love all types of cookbooks. This book is an accessory to her blog. I guarantee you, if those of us who follow the blog would not see her pics and stories in this book...the book wouldn't fly. This is part of the charm of it all. Please keep in mind that an author cannot please everyone. This book is wonderful for those who love visual learning and may be new to some of the recipes, as well. I love it because I have a "hard copy" of portions of her blog and I plan on trying some of her southwest recipes, tooThe Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. If you have made a lot of these than put your own twist on them, start a blog, and share your experience for those younger women who would probably like the mentoring. Kudos to Ree.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2010 3:40:27 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 15, 2010 5:05:19 AM PST
You're right: an author can't please everyone and Ree didn't please me with this book. As another reviewer said, when a book is subtitled "Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl", I expect recipes. I rarely look at the other areas of her web site because they don't appeal to me. That content in the cookbook doesn't appeal to me either. I'd gladly give it up in favor of more recipes. I wouldn't be as enamored with the cooking section of her web site if there wasn't a printable recipe at the end of her entries. Having to wade through pictures to get the instructions is not at all appealing to me. I think the book would have been equally as popular without all the other content -- and with about 35 more recipes (making the number of recipes about the same as other books of this size).

Posted on Jan 5, 2010 7:14:35 AM PST
C. Murphy says:
All I can say is that I tried three of her recipes for our New Year's guests and all three were a huge hit. Whiskey Ribeyes, Rosemary Potatoes and Pineapple Upside-down Cake.

Posted on Jan 17, 2010 3:15:51 PM PST
happymommy78 says:
Sally,

Thanks for such an honest thorough review. People seem to be getting so upset because they love Ree and her blog so much (as I do too), but we all need to keep in mind that this is in fact a COOKBOOK...not a hard copy of her blog.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2010 6:56:01 AM PST
C. Murphy says:
Oh, I have to respectfully disagree. The book, to me, is a compilation of recipes, pics, and glimpses of her family life, as is her blog. I found the visual aspect of her book to be happy and upbeat and I like that about her blog, as well. It s very much like some of the quilting books I purchase. I'm always looking for that perfect pattern. Many of my books are more utilitarian while others have much more visual impact because of added stories, pictures and colorful layouts. I always consider that when I flip through the book before my purchase. If a person doesn't care for that thing than they should rethink their purchase. Case in point....I loved "Julie and Julia" but there is no way I would purchase Julia Child's cookbook. After looking through it at Barnes and Noble, I knew I would never get the use out of that particular cookbook. Too time constraining for this period of my life. Just a thought....

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2010 4:42:48 AM PST
C. Murphy, here's the problem for me: This book is advertised and promoted as a cookbook, not "a compilation of recipes, pics, and glimpses of her family life," or as happymommy78 says, a hard copy of the blog. If it had been advertised like that, I wouldn't have purchased it without seeing it first, especially since, to me, the pics and glimpses of family life seem to have at least equal importance as the recipes.

As I've said, I'm not a fan of the step-by-step photos. On the blog I can skip right over them and print the recipe. In the book I'm stuck with them and I think they make the book extremely hard to use. As much as I like Ree's recipes, I find the book to be very difficult to use.
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