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For my birthday this year my kids gave me this book: Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews by Marilyn Hagerty. They discovered it in a small bookstore in downtown Burlington, and recognized Anthony Bourdain’s name on the cover (he wrote the foreword and the book was published under his imprint, Ecco Press) as an author/chef that I’ve read before. Marilyn Hagerty writes for the Grand Forks Herald in Grand Forks, ND. She writes five columns each week including the “Eat Beat” column where she reviews the local restaurants in Grand Forks. She has been writing this restaurant column for over 25 years. Grand Forks is a collection of her reviews. Bourdain’s foreword mentions when in 2012 Marilyn Hagerty’s review of a new Olive Garden restaurant in Grand Forks went viral.
For her simple, straightforward, and positive review of the Olive Garden she was mocked in snarky tweets and Facebook posts.
People made fun of her quiet praise of this new Olive Garden in her town, and from there they moved on to some of her other local reviews. Happily the story does not end here, as a wave of positivity soon overtook the wave of snark. Thousands of people and the media took notice and came to her defense. She landed interviews on The Today Show and NPR. Then Anthony Bourdain swooped in to laud her years of local restaurant reviews, arranged for her to dine at Eric Ripert’s La Bernardin in New York City, and made plans to work with her on a book – this book! Bourdain said, “This is a straightforward account of what people have been eating-still ARE eating-in much of America.”
When I read this book the restaurants she describes made me think of the places where I would eat out with my grandparents or restaurants that our parents would take us to on special occasions. Small, local restaurants that exist for years and years without ever really changing the food or the decor, and people like them that way.
The food is good and not pretentious: soups, half-sandwiches, salad bars, Sunday brunches with steam tables holding French toast, eggs and bacon.
Hagerty’s reviews in Grand Forks include places like these plus truck stops, diners, family restaurants, and other chains in the Grand Forks area such as Shakey’s, Player’s, Dairy Queen, and even McDonald’s. Hagerty’s reviews are straightforward, simple, kind. She shares the prices of dishes she tries and a bit of what else is on the menu. She likes to share about the folks with whom she dines: her “constant companion”, friends, and children. She is not harsh or critical, and she is not out to skewer anyone. Occasionally a review will mention something about a dish or about the establishment that could use a change. There are also one or two dry-humored jabs at misspellings on menus.
“What point, I wonder, is there in tearing down hard-working restaurant people?”, Hagerty notes. “And if a place is just too bad, I move on.”
In a Wall Street Journal article titled “When Mom Goes Viral” her son James R. Hagerty shared, “If she writes more about the decor than the food, you might want to eat somewhere else.” I have eaten in many, many more places like the ones reviewed in Hagerty’s book. And the food in these restaurants is good! Filling, comforting and affordable. A lot like the food I cook at home and the recipes I share in this blog. I love good food, and I love to share good food with good people.
Like the annual Chicken Pie Supper we attend at a local church with the Armchair Squid and his family. We get a whole lot of tasty food, and share it with great friends! For these reasons I enjoy Hagerty’s reviews and her observations of the people and trends in her town.
The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: Brilliant and well-dressed is the host The Armchair Squid who describes it thusly: “The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you’ve finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same. In this way, we’ll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.” Visit The Armchair Squid and see what everyone’s reading! 1.The Armchair Squid 2.mainewords 3.Meradeth’s Write Stuff 4.Cherdo on the Flipside 5.WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME 6.Hub City 7.Life Before the Hereafter 8.Trisha @ WORD STUFF 9.Stephanie Faris, Author 10.Hungry Enough To Eat Six 11.A Creative Exercise 12.StrangePegs — Ozma of Oz 13.Words Incorporated 14.My Creatively Random Life 15.V’s Reads 16.http://sallys-scribbles.blogspot