I just love to be inspired. I’ve always been intrigued with real-life stories of real-life people who’ve taken on really big challenges and turned them into a really large circle of influence.
(photo credit Food Network)
My mom was active for years in a group of ladies who planned fabulous luncheons, just for women, once a month. They took place at the nicest hotels in town, or in the dining room of a local country club. Every month, women from all walks of life put on a name tag and became part of inspired audience. The speakers were well-known and unknown. Older and younger. Stylish and plain, but all beautiful – from the inside out. My mom took me with her during the summer, and I loved hearing how God had done something big in the lives of these women.
It was so inspiring.
The luncheons became harder to plan as the years went on. Women became busier – planning booster club fundraisers, taking fulltime jobs, and spending blocks of their days at soccer practice. Women no longer needed a reason to get out of the house ice in a while. Instead, they yearned for more time at home! Also, staying connected with other women became much easier with the technology of a little thing called a cell phone.
And yet, women still love to hear the stories of other women. Somehow, we all instinctively know that staying in touch with a text isn’t the same as being in sync with a story. We still need to be inspired by the great things some of us do.
I think that’s why women love blogs. As we follow along online, the individual accomplishments of the one become the collective hoo-rah of the whole.
Maybe that’s why we love Ree Drummond so much. She gives us lots to collectively cheer about. As we’ve watched her life unfold in the kitchen of a ranch “out in the middle of nowhere,” we’ve been inspired. If she can fill her her own freezer and still have a little energy left to frolic on a four-wheeler with Marlboro Man, then maybe we can do it, too.
While Ree was learning the ins and outs of photographing chicken fried steak, we, her readers and watchers, became inspired to break out our own cast iron skillets and whip up something manly for our men, too.
We’ve followed her story, many of us since she started in 2006. We’ve rooted for her success. We’ve introduced her to our friends and our daughters. We’ve stirred dulce de leche into a hot cup of coffee, served it to our husbands, and proudly proclaimed – it’s from The Pioneer Woman.
(This is going to really be delicious in my new Mercantile mug.)
And now, we, the women of Ree’s inspired tribe are finding ourselves traveling from far and wide to the “Merc,” a beautiful spot on the corner of Kihekah and Main. We go there to taste her recipes, buy her dishes, meet her friends, take pictures with her kids, and just have a good ol’ pow-wow in Pawhuska.
So, when my family organized a weekend with family on an Oklahoma farm, and my friend, Jana, was already going to be in Tulsa, we became pretty inspired to make plans. Pawhuska plans.
On the way there, we discussed our lives and our loves and everything in between. We also pondered the irony of celebrity status and country seclusion. How we hadn’t done it before, I’m not sure – but we both recently read the love story of Pioneer Woman and Marlboro Man in Ree’s book, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, which was actually published back in 2012.
And, now, here we were. The places we had read about – and the country images we had grown to love from our Saturday morning cooking show episodes were now right before our eyes. The Merc.
If Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile in Pawhuska is on your 2017 intentional adventures list, here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of this woman-tribe experience.
Five things to know before you go.
1. The lines are long. We arrived at 10:15 a.m. for a 2 hour, 45 minute wait in the lunch line. (If you stay at the bed and bath down the street, you might want to consider breakfast instead. The line forms at 6:00 a.m.) It is acceptable for your party to split up – while some keep your place in line, the others can go inside and shop the Mercantile shelves. Menus are passed down the line so everyone can at least speed up the ordering process, once inside. The doorkeepers are good historians / comedians, and will do their best to inform and entertain the crowd with tales of historic Pawhuska, as well as stories about the dishes appearing on the menu and the chefs behind the scenes. People are ushered inside the building in small groups, and they try to let you go in with the people in your party. The staff is very hospitable. They’ll take pictures for you with absolutely no complaint and seem to genuinely want to help pass the time in a fun way. Even if you drive up in a limo, wear your comfortable shoes, not your heels. This is also not a good place to bring great-great-Grandma, unless she wants to sit in the car while your spot in line moves up. There are free municipal parking lots close by. Bring an umbrella and a water bottle. Restrooms are available inside the store, but not at neighboring businesses. (We heard from an insider that non-holiday Mondays are a good time to beat the crowd. Thanks, Insider!)
(Where in the world is Jana?)
2. If you’re short on time, skip the restaurant. You can also get something good to eat from the Grab & Go, which is what we decided to do after waiting in the restaurant line for an hour. There’s still a line for the deli counter, but it’s not quite as long. We think we shaved 45 minutes off our wait time by doing it this way. There’s a park across the street, and a few outside tables where you can eat your Grab & Go lunch. If you’re really short on time, skip the bakery, too. A limited selection of pastries is available in the case at the Grab & Go checkout. I bought two maple scones, two almond twists and one chocolate croissant to take home for sharing with my sweetie. Jana brought home a cranberry orange muffin and said it was delicious, with big, juicy bits of cranberry. Cookies are only available upstairs in the bakery.
There’s no menu for the Deli Grab & Go. Selections are decided daily by the chefs. There are entrees first, veggies and sides next, followed by big ceramic pots of soup, then sandwiches, ending with pastries at the checkout. It’s hard to see what all is in the deli case, so at least if you know the categories ahead of time, that will help. (Let it be known that you got that inside scoop right here.)
The Drummond boys are SO polite and kind.
And Paige? Well, look how sweet she is. I sent this picture to my college son right away and asked him if he wanted me to try to get him a Pawhuska bride. He’s a barista, so they already have that in common. I think that’s probably all you really need for a good arranged marriage, isn’t it? Two people who can both make a great latte.
3. Before you head to Pawhuska, take some time to peruse the Mercantile website, where you can get a good idea of the items offered inside the store. That way, if you can’t carry everything you wish you could lug out of there, you can pick and choose, based on what can be ordered online after you get home. We both bought a couple of super cute shirts. The candles smelled fabulous, and everyone was raving about the plastic wrap. I’m out of the loop on that that one, but the dispenser boxes sure were cute. All the women at the checkout were dressed in black and were wearing single strands of turquoise beads. I wish I would have gotten some, but didn’t see them until it was too late. Another find that I started to get was a beautiful floral mug but it was a little too expensive. I’m definitely happy with the Mercantile mug I ended up getting. I had seen a large display of them when we first walked through. By the time we got back, there was one left.
4. If you already own a PW book – take it with you. Ree may come by the Mercantile for a book signing. If you don’t have a book with you but want to get her autograph and your picture with her, you’ll have to get a book downstairs, where there may be another long line, so try to get that purchased early in your day. She’s also gracious enough to sign your napkin! I wish I would have taken my Charlie the Ranch Dog book for Ree’s signature, but I didn’t think of it. I also wish I would have thought to buy a couple more of her children’s books to have autographed as baby gifts.
(Thanks, Ree. You made our day. Week. Month. Year.)
5. Lastly, be a little prepared for a post-Merc crash. I had a hard time going to sleep, a hard time waking up the next morning, and a hard time getting back to reality. Jana said it was the same for her. She said it felt like we had been in another world. Men reading this – you might not really get that. Women? I hope you’re inspired.
Encouraging intentional adventure across the state line, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain, in Ooookkklllaaahhhooommma!
PS – Have you been to the Mercantile? What are your favorite Pioneer Woman recipes or episodes?