Ree Drummond, best known as the Pioneer Woman, has transformed her carefully curated brand of "Aw, shucks" homemaking into a Food Network show, a line of cookware available at only the finest Walmarts, and a combination restaurant and gift shop that currently averages around 6,000 customers each day. She's basically a Cracker Barrel with an expensive blowout and, now much like that gravy-soaked restaurant chain (which settled a racial discrimination lawsuit in 2004), Drummond has been accused of being racist at worst, culturally tone-deaf at best.
Lynn Chen and Lisa Lee, the founders and editors of the Thick Dumpling Skin website and podcast, discovered the scene in question during a Season 2 rerun of The Pioneer Woman. In the clip, Drummond gathers her husband, Ladd, and some of his button-down-wearing buddies around her counter and serves them a plate of spicy Asian hot wings. They respond by looking at her like she's given them something truly upsetting, like a cake iced with "#feminism" and garnished with a fondant IUD. (One man even eyes the wings warily and says "I don't trust 'em. I don't trust 'em" as a young boy claps his hand over his mouth in horror.)
Then in the big reveal, she opens a second oven door and pulls out a plate of good ol' American wings. "I'm just kidding, guys! I wouldn't do that to you," she says with a smile. Then everyone is satisfied and happy, and the sun sets flatteringly on the Drummonds' 100-percent Real American ranch in Oklahoma, a ranch that is the 17th largest in the United States and is roughly half the size of the state of Rhode Island.
"There isn't a single show on the Food Network hosted by someone Asian, unless you count Iron Chef (and we don't). Why must we watch non-Asian cooks who can't pronounce 'sriracha' and don't have a chopstick drawer show us how to make our own dishes?," Chen and Lee posted on Thick Dumpling Skin. "And how come, when they do, we have to watch as their entire family mocks it—like in this episode of The Pioneer Woman?"
As Eater pointed out, this wasn't some unscripted reaction shot: It was clearly a planned dismissal of Asian cuisine. Earlier in the same episode, Drummond said that she wanted to prank her husband by serving him Asian chicken instead of his go-to, a pan of completely Caucasian Buffalo Wings. "I like to mess with my spouse," she said. "I can't help it."
This isn't the first time Drummond has been accused of being offensive—or at least completely clueless. Although she has scrubbed a lot of her older, more questionable blog posts, there is still a cached version about, say, that time she thought she had a black grandfather. "Having a black grandpa provided me just the individuality I needed in the relatively small, affluent area in which I grew up," she wrote in 2006. "Just how Caucasian everyone was would be painfully obvious during any given trip to the pool: blond, straight hair, light tan skin, blue eyes—what did any of these clueless sheep know about culture?" But—SPOILER ALERT—her grandfather wasn't black, he was just a really tan white dude. Yes, this was a real thing.
She was also routinely criticised for throwing around the word "retarded" to describe her developmentally disabled older brother. "As a blood relative of a retarded person, I'm automatically exempt. I get to say retarded," she once wrote. "Retarded."
So far, neither The Food Network nor Drummond have responded to the concerns raised by this episode—although plenty of Asian-Americans have.
And some had noticed the clip before Thick Dumpling Skin resurfaced it:
MUNCHIES has reached out to both the Food Network and Thick Dumpling Skin for comment on the matter but has not yet received a response.