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Marilyn Hagerty Goes Viral


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An 85 year-old Grand Forks, ND food writer found herself in the news after writing a positive review of the area's new Olive Garden restaurant. A food blog picked up on the column and led to it going viral.

Sure, for most, an Olive Garden is hardly newsworthy, but methinks we point-and-snicker too much(?).

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Right. OG isn't vile. In fact it is one of the better chains. I can imagine that in Grand Forks after a long day roping little dogies and shooting varmints a man can get a powerful hankering for some of that Eye-talian food and an OG would be a God-send.

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I don't think everyone is laughing about this review because they're mocking a nice old lady who likes the Olive Garden. If you read the actual review it is a very well-written smackdown, written in Midwestern Nice. The best thing she has to say about the food is that it is "warm and comforting." The equivalent review in the South would be, "Olive Garden, well, bless their hearts."

"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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I've read a little about this, and the article seems genuine. It seems that people are really lining up at the Olive Garden in Grand Forks and driving there because there are only a handful of the chains in the state.

Mockery of this article is the internet losing all perspective (an oxymoron I know). The article may be totally appropriate for Grand Forks. Mocking something like this is a number one indicator of small-mindedness. On the other hand, she is most certainly writing in a world and for an audience I have never experienced.

nunc est bibendum...

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Having spent a little time in North Dakota, I can tell you that I was unable to find a terrific little independently-owned Northern Italian trattoria to patronize, and there were definitely times I would have been grateful for an Olive Garden.

But both of the Dakotas have some truly wonderful and magical charms (and I'm serious) that completely make up for a dearth of "culinista-approved" dining choices. Some of my fondest memories are of cruising through endless-sky Lakota Sioux country, a Bryan Akipa CD serenading me with his haunting red cedar flute tunes.

I know it's hard for many (especially here) to believe (and I include myself in that category), but superlative food ain't everything.

At least not always.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I didn't think the review was in any way out of the ordinary. If anyone was interested, and hadn't been in an Olive Garden before, reading her piece would have laid out what to expect. Period. Plain-vanilla small town review, nothing wrong with it.

Sure are a lot of self-styled culinary arbiters on the 'net, though, aren't there?

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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someone wrote a polite review, liked a restaurant, and most importantly said why.

:biggrin:

why this went 'viral' suggests serious illness elsewhere.

Im sure the doggies and varments was not personal, just jesting.

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I don't like Olive Garden, but I like the unnecessary mockery of an 85 yr old woman and cartoonish characterizations of the Heartland even less.

Humorlessness in the heartland. Good grief.

I was mocking the arch tone of some of the internet commenters.

Some people like taking offense I guess.

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I am from North Dakota and still live here, to me this is upsetting, not that she wrote the article badly, but that it is how most people up here look at food. I personally liked her review of Taco Bell, the quesadilla was "half circle and cut into wedge shaped slices" now thats horrible writing. It is North Dakota but i think we know how a quesadilla gets cut. The "hype" of olive garden happened here too, and for some reason people eat there and yet our local Italian place with great food closed. Its be a chain or dont survive in North Dakota for the most part.

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Well Ive been to the Dakodtas

in the winter time no less.

who knew that the cars had oil heaters with plugs that you plugged into every where you parked so your car did hot freeze up!

Id like to hear more on the restaurant than closed.

Stay Warm or watch Frago!

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I am from North Dakota and still live here, to me this is upsetting, not that she wrote the article badly, but that it is how most people up here look at food. I personally liked her review of Taco Bell, the quesadilla was "half circle and cut into wedge shaped slices" now thats horrible writing. It is North Dakota but i think we know how a quesadilla gets cut. The "hype" of olive garden happened here too, and for some reason people eat there and yet our local Italian place with great food closed. Its be a chain or dont survive in North Dakota for the most part.

Honestly, I think that's not unique to North Dakota. I live in Houston, the fourth-largest city in the US. And it's an immigrant city. The list of nationalities and restaurants specializing in various "ethnic" cuisines is staggering.

I've done a lot of traveling and think I know when a restaurant represents a particular cuisine well. It never ceases to amaze me how the chain parking lots are jammed, while excellent small restaurants struggle to stay open.

The only difference between a "local Italian place with great food" in North Dakota and one in Houston is that, although the percentages of the population there and here that support it are probably similar, the Houston metro area has nearly 6 million folks to draw from.

So 1% here and 1% there is no comparison.

Their respective operating costs are probably similar. But their customer base is decidedly not.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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When I first moved to eastern Washington State, the locals #1 wish was for an Olive Garden - complete with lobbying the parent company. I did find that amusing. Yes there was a local Italian Restaurant that I personally didn't think was that great. Unfortunately, I got pretty jaded about marginal representations of various types of food. Luckily it got better with time. In any case, the idea of reliable food that is different from home but not outside the comfort zone is attractive to a lot of people. And the choices for that are limited in a lot of towns.

As far as the review goes, what's the point of detailing the nuances of one dish? Probably better to let people know what to expect when they walk in the door. And what's the point of comparing the Olive Garden to 'real' Italian if that isn't an option? That being said, it could have been a bit more useful by talking about the noise level, table sizes, speed of service (ok if you survive the wait, you will be able to live on salad and breadsticks until the main dishes arrive), and how long the waits are.

Personally, I agree there are worse things than Olive Garden, and there is no reason to avoid writing about one of the biggest new restaurants in the area - at least for people who aren't willing to drive up to Winnipeg.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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The review reads just like the local paper reviews I've seen in community newspapers. If anything, it's better than most of those and at least it gives a sense of the place. I'm sure no one expects a nuanced review of the food at a chain restaurant. I've never been to an Olive Garden, but i can imagine what the food would be like quite easily. Frankly, living in a small and isolated town as I am I'd be glad to have a half decent italian restaurant nearby, chain or not.

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When I first read about the review, I was bemused. Why would anyone review a chain restaurant? But I recalled that when my elder daughter had worked at an OG, she had mentioned that it was a big favorite with elders. An OG opening would be newsworthy for a place that did not have one.

After thinking about it more, the article just makes me sad.

For several years I spent a lot more time than I liked driving thru rural Indiana. Most of the county seats I passed thru were less than half the size of Grand Forks. When I would do a search for places I might eat on the way, 4 out of 5 would be chain restaurant. I do recall coming across reviews saying things like "This <insert chain name here> is the best restaurant in town." I did find one review that said something like "<restaurant> just opened, and it is real Mexican. Finally, a place in town worth eating at." When I drove by, it was already closed. That same town did not have an OG, but there was one just 30 miles down the road.

I guess it is noteworthy, especially in times like these, to find your hometown on the OG map.

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An 85 year-old Grand Forks, ND food writer found herself in the news after writing a positive review of the area's new Olive Garden restaurant. A food blog picked up on the column and led to it going viral.

Sure, for most, an Olive Garden is hardly newsworthy, but methinks we point-and-snicker too much(?).

Frankly, I caught a sardonic tone (something about the reference to where she was seated), but I may be mistaken.

What's not making sense to me about the reactions to her review are a) the sort of dumb sniggering most people would never dare indulge in, if the same article were written by an 85-year-old woman in Somalia, and b) the disingenuous 'I just cannot believe people don't realize chain restaurant food is rubbish' tone of so many, apparently intended to make the commenters appear sophisticated and discerning; the actual effect is incredibly provincial and gauche (not to mention, her writing is far better than that of most of the imbeciles who see fit to air their views online).

Compared to many places, Grand Forks is relatively small and isolated. The opening of a restaurant of any sort is, not surprisingly, an event. Since the local demographic is not dominated by Italians or those who travel extensively and have a nuanced appreciation of any of the Italian cuisines, the Olive Garden clearly provides an attractive combination of 'otherness' and accessibility.

Ms. Hagerty is probably far more satisfied with her life than plenty of people I know, who have easy access to fine examples of nearly every cuisine under the sun. Why patronize her by feeling sad about the limited options that surround her, when she manages to make the most of the options she does have?

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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When I first read about the review, I was bemused. Why would anyone review a chain restaurant? But I recalled that when my elder daughter had worked at an OG, she had mentioned that it was a big favorite with elders. An OG opening would be newsworthy for a place that did not have one.

After thinking about it more, the article just makes me sad.

For several years I spent a lot more time than I liked driving thru rural Indiana. Most of the county seats I passed thru were less than half the size of Grand Forks. When I would do a search for places I might eat on the way, 4 out of 5 would be chain restaurant. I do recall coming across reviews saying things like "This <insert chain name here> is the best restaurant in town." I did find one review that said something like "<restaurant> just opened, and it is real Mexican. Finally, a place in town worth eating at." When I drove by, it was already closed. That same town did not have an OG, but there was one just 30 miles down the road.

I guess it is noteworthy, especially in times like these, to find your hometown on the OG map.

And let me point out that sometimes we idolize and romanticize things that, in reality, don't actually exist the way we think (or wish) they do.

Just because there's a cute little independently-owned family restaurant in a small isolated town, that doesn't necessarily mean it's any good. All too often those places don't have the ability to source excellent, fresh, top-quality foodstuffs, and instead rely on canned goods and commercially-prepared dishes from companies like Sysco and American Food Suppliers that arrive once a week in a semi-truck to service the entire town.

I've eaten many awful meals, and far more mediocre ones, from those cute little restaurants in the sorts of sparse, desolate towns that you drive past on the interstate and marvel at the undisputed fact that at least some of those residents must live there by choice.

So no, you're not going to get any delightful surprises at the Olive Garden up on the highway next to the Comfort Inn where you've stopped for the night.

But you're probably not going to get any bad surprises, either.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Ms. Hagerty clearly doesn't give a rat's patootey about all this, which tickles me no end. I'm sure the folks that are making fun of her believe themselves to be tres sophisticated and enjoy the thought that they might be making her feel provincial.

But I don't think they've succeeded in that at all, as evidenced by this excerpt from a recent interview:

Hagerty said her daughter, Gail Hagerty of Bismarck, urged her to read the Facebook comments about her review.

“I told her I’m working on my Sunday column and I’m going to play bridge this afternoon, so I don’t have time to read all this crap,” she said.

And, she noted, although chain restaurants, buffets and truck stops have been subjects of her reviews, she has eaten at The White House. Twice.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Thank you, James. I was just going to say much the same thing.

*In fact, I composed a very long post that went *poof!* so I will just second yours.

Oh yeah; the last time I stopped somewhere and asked the desk clerk where was a good local non-chain restaurant, I wound up dining on canned corn, canned green beans, instant mashed potatoes, and fried shrimp that had arrived at the kitchen door in a box, pre-breaded (way too heavily) and frozen (and I'm sure about that because I asked).

The salad bar was equally uninspired. Wilted lettuce, grated cheap yellow mystery cheese that was still partially frozen, hard, flavorless tomatoes, canned black olives, fake bacon bits, saltines in those little cellophane packages...

I'll take an Olive Garden Salad and bread sticks over that any day.

:hmmm:

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I think that "haute' might be so over rated.

Its On Your Plate.

You Might enjoy it.

that it.

"On The Plate

With enjoyment for you and much more Importantly

the friends you eat with

and enjoy their company.

take a look at the movie if you can 'Fargo'.

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