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Reba McEntire Shares Meals and Memories in Book, ‘Not That Fancy’

The country star reflects on a life well lived and features three recipes for AARP members to try

spinner image reba mcentire holding glass with drink in it against orange background with outlines of chicken drumsticks on it
Photo Collage: MOA; (Source: Robby Klein Photography)

Reba McEntire is a country music legend, a spirited Broadway talent and a long-running sitcom star. She’s hosted awards shows, coached young singers on NBC’s The Voice and helped revitalize her hometown of Atoka, Oklahoma, with Reba’s Place, a restaurant, bar and live music venue that opened last year.

But wait, there’s more — she’s also an author! In Not That Fancy: Simple Lessons on Living, Loving, Eating, and Dusting Off Your Boots, McEntire treats fans to a decidedly delicious glimpse at the memories and the meals that continue to fuel her. From working the land with her family to tackling Broadway for the first time, McEntire dishes on the moments that made her a household name — alongside recipes for the dishes she enjoyed along the way.

“The best stories are usually told around a dinner table,” McEntire tells AARP. “Stories and food just go together. And if there’s a little wine or a cocktail involved, the stories usually get even better.”

Here, AARP catches up with McEntire about the book, her new restaurant and the lessons that continue to lead her forward.

What role did cooking and food play in your upbringing?

Growing up on the ranch in Oklahoma, we didn’t eat Michelin-star-chef-prepared meals. Mama made do with what we had … and it usually involved a lot of ketchup and mountain oysters.

In the book, you say you learned early that “the work is in the waiting,” from ranching to rising in the music business. What does that adage mean to you now?

So much of this business is a hurry-up-and-wait process. Waiting to record or film, and then waiting for it to be released after you’ve done the work. And sometimes things don’t pan out the way you hoped they would. That can be humbling when something you’ve worked so hard on, like a TV show, doesn’t get picked up. It teaches you patience. It teaches you about believing in something bigger at work. That’s where my faith comes in.

In the foreword, Garth Brooks praises your business acumen as much as your kindness and talent. What’s one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Half the stuff I stressed out about and lost sleep over, I don’t even remember. In the moment, everything seems bigger than it really is.

In the book, you write that “the flip side of fear isn’t fearlessness. It’s curiosity.” How do you push yourself to stay curious today?

spinner image book cover with words reba mcentire, foreword by garth brooks, not that fancy, simple lessons on living, loving, eating, and busting off your boots; picture of reba mcentire on it

Cook With Reba

McEntire shared three recipes from Not That Fancy for AARP members to try:

Reba’s Mexican Cornbread

I’ve never been considered much of a cook. But when I make my beans and Mexican cornbread, no one ever complains!

Chicken Thighs With Vegetables and Beans

This is a great go-to when having friends over. 

Strawberry Shortcake

This dessert is a classic for a reason!

Mama always said I had the attention span of a 2-year-old! I guess that naturally lends itself to being curious. It definitely gets harder to stay curious the older you get, but I work in a business where things are always changing; and if you’re not changing with it, you’re getting left behind.

Your mother shows up many times in the book. What are some of the best lessons she passed down to you in the kitchen?

Mama didn’t fuss over anything. She kept things simple. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be good, and I’ve tried to remember that. It’s about the people around the table more than what’s on the table.

You’ve got a lot more people around your table — or tables — lately. You’re coming up on a year with your restaurant, Reba’s Place, which you opened with chef Kurtess Mortensen in partnership with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. What has that experience been like?

Working with Chef Kurtess and the Choctaws has been so much fun. They are the best partners. We couldn’t have opened Reba’s Place without them. I’d never owned a restaurant before, and it’s not for the faint of heart. I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished in our first year being open and can’t wait to see what the future holds. The most rewarding part has been hearing the feedback from our employees about how much they love working at Reba’s Place, and what a difference it’s making in the community there in Atoka.

Not That Fancy makes it clear that there are plenty of easy ways to prepare food for loved ones. What dish, in your opinion, should always be homemade?

It’s hard to beat beans that have been simmering on the stove with bacon and onions for 12 hours. You can’t get that taste out of a can!


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