My hand flew up over my mouth as I uttered a word my mom would not be proud to hear me say. It starts with a “C” and ends with a “rap” (and I’m very thankful to the Food Network for NOT airing that audio).
And then, in the midst of all the shouting and applause, my sweet, sweet Jen…
“Bobby Flay. It’s a Throwdown.”
“What’s a Throwdown?”
And every bit of that exchange is on some film, somewhere at Food Network. (I’m sort of waiting for Jen to call and suggest some kind of B&E to get the footage out of their hands.)
Then things got crazy. The ovens were cranked up, all the burners were on, and those two got crackin’, along with their assistants. A full Thanksgiving dinner in just a few hours? There’s no time to play here.
The aroma was incredible. So was the heat. I had no idea that the air conditioning had to be off for filming like this, but woo boy. With lights everywhere and the entire kitchen running on all cylinders it got hot real fast.
The producers asked if anyone would like to ask Ree a question and since no one was jumping to get in front of the camera and I had a pair of trained monkeys poking me and urging me to do it, I gave into peer pressure and raised my hand. They ushered me over to the other side of the room, in front of where Ree was cooking, she smiled, and I threw her a soft ball about ciabatta bread that she had talked about before everything really got rolling. Of course, you know I had a great question about the composition of turmeric, but that wouldn’t have made good TV now, would it? Soft ball my question may have been, but my face was twitching and contorting in ways rivaled only by the time I met DRUNK MEREDITH from The Office.
We hung out while they cooked. My husband, as usual, kept himself busy catching the random fly that would come in when someone opened a door. In his hand. Sticking his arm up in the air and grabbing flies.
I know. I just shake my head and move on.
Like Ree said, it’s a working cattle ranch and the fact is…there are flies.
Oh, and can I just take a minute to say how well-behaved her kids are? I was raised with two brothers and I know how little boys that age can be. Those fellas and their big sisters are certainly a crew for their mom to be proud of.
Finally, it was time to eat. Here’s my breakdown on the food.
Turkey – Ree wins. Hers was moist and flavorful. I now know that brining is the only way to go.
Dressing – Not stuffing! I preferred Bobby’s. His wasn’t so much like a traditional dressing though, as it was more of an interesting side dish. Loved it.
Side dish – Ree’s mashed potatoes. Hands down. So good. Bobby did brussel sprouts and while they weren’t my favorite, he did succeed in getting me to eat every brussel sprout on my plate, something that has never happened in the history of my life.
Gravy – Tie. Can’t say one stood out more than the other for me.
Cranberry sauce – I liked Bobby’s, but not for the purpose it was serving. It was primarily blackberries and belongs on a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, in a bowl, in front of me, RIGHT NOW. Ree’s was more traditional and I thought it complemented her dressing well.
Dessert – Confession time — I don’t really like pecans. GAH! And I love bread pudding. I mean, did you see my face when they panned to me in the crowd. I SO approve of bread pudding. Add pumpkin to that and I’m sold.
For me, Ree was the winner. Her meal seemed to come together a whole lot better than Bobby’s. It was very cohesive and there were mashed potatoes. I mean, really. Who has heard of Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes?
After we ate, I was, in the words of many of my kin, “fuller’n’a dog tick” (more full than a dog tick — Google that if you’re from the city and have no mental image for that). We stood around for a little while longer, then Jen pointed out to me that Ree was back behind all the commotion getting her makeup touched up. With a little encouragement from my posse (it takes a little for me as I am NOT an interrupter) I went back behind the kitchen area to talk to our hostess. She greeted me with a hug and I introduced her to Kevin and Jennifer. I took a minute to thank her for inviting me and told her, “You don’t have anything to worry about. You’re going to win this thing.”
The crowd moved outside for a bit while the crew prepped for the judging portion of the show. When we were ushered back inside to stand in front of the fireplace, I really had no idea exactly WHERE I was standing.
This is me, crazy-eyed and excited. (Bless the silly ol’ heart of my good pal, Delisa, for pausing her DVR and taking these photos — without me even asking. That’s what friends are forrrrrr…)
So I’m standing down below with Jennifer and there are a bunch of rowdy cowboys AND MY HUSBAND behind me. I’ve never wanted to see him in a cowboy hat more than I did in that moment. (Please, Kevin, for me?) We’re all crammed in there and it’s stuffy and we’re waiting on the judges to come out and Ree looks over her shoulder and, uhh…jokingly says something about blowing on her neck.
And in one of the most awkward moments ever, (cause, I mean, I had only just hugged her a little while before) Jennifer lifted up Ree’s hair, fanned her a little and…
I blew on the Pioneer Woman’s neck.
And I don’t regret it. Not one bit. Homegirl was burning up. As a person who does not sweat, I know overheating can be a very serious thing. Don’t take it lightly, people!
Then, out of nowhere, Trisha Yearwood.
Now HOW did they know she was my favorite country singer? Trisha and I go way back. Like, singing “She’s In Love With The Boy” in the school bathroom in 1st grade, way back.
The judging began and all I could think about was how hot it was and how I was surrounded on all sides by people. *goes cross-eyed* The moment they announced the winner was a relief (knowing I’d get some air soon) and a thrill because REE WON! And then somewhere in the midst of all this we broke out into our state song, “Oklahoma!” Possibly the best point of the night.
After it was all said and done we scurried outside into the cooler night air and I watch Ree’s boys lassoing each other on the hill below the Lodge. Talk about icing on the cake.
We thought about waiting around a little longer to talk to the woman of the hour, but it was getting late and we had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us. Luckily, we timed it just right and had a handsome cowboy offer us a ride back up to our car.
Ladies and gents, it was Cowboy Josh. His accent was fabulous (and honestly, after this trip, I’m a little disappointed in mine) and I not-so-subtly elbowed Jen a couple of times. You know, raising my eyebrows and grinning, and nodding my head his direction.
I hope he didn’t look in the rear view mirror. I’m sure it looked like I was having some sort of episode.
We thanked him for the ride and bid him farewell. There was still a little light, so we got a few pictures before we headed out on the road.
There’s a cowpie in that picture
Then I insisted on picking a wildflower. This is me frolicking through the pasture.
This is me investigating the “wildflower” and finding that it was some type of nettle instead. I know better than to go picking nettles.
What a lovely day it was. Our hostess was gracious and so welcoming. She is exactly who you see on her blog — a hardworking mother who is charming, beautiful, and hilarious.
Thank you, so much, Ree, for inviting me and letting us all be a part of that day. It was fantastic. Congratulations on your win!