Free Reading Grand Forks –

Grand Forks A legendary yearold food critic brings together a collection of the best downhome, nononsense restaurant reviewsfrom Red Lobster to Le Bernadinculled from her fifty year careerWriting for her local North Dakota newspaper, the Grand Forks Herald since , Marilyn Hagerty went from obscurity to overnight sensation inwhen her earnest, admiring review of a local Olive Garden went viral Among the denizens of the food worldobsessive gastronomes who celebrate Alice Waters and Michael Pollan, revere all things artisanal, and have made kale salad a staple on upscale urban menusHagerty's review ignited a fiery debate over the state of American culture Anthony Bourdain defended Hagerty as an authentic voice of the larger American cultureone that is not dictated by the biases of the food snobbery that define the coastsIn this refreshing, unpretentious collection that includes thanreviews culled from a voluminous archive spanning over fifty years, Hagerty reveals how most Americans experience the pleasure of eating out Bourdain hails Grand Forks as, a history of American diningin the vast spaces between the jaded palates and professional snarkologists of the privileged coastsas told by one hard working small city journalistWe watch American dining change over time, in baby steps Traditional regional Scandinavian giving way to big chains, first iterations of sushi, early efforts at hipster chic Part Fargo, part Lake Woebegone It's the antidote to snark This book kills cynics dead 2019 bk 55 Interesting, in a good way Not a book to sit down and do in one read I ended up reading one or two of the restaurant reviews a day This book is not only reviews, but also describes the history of Grand Fork, North Dakota's restaurant industry from the mid 1980's through 2012 If I were to go back and read it again, I would pick Whiteys or Sanders 1907 and read each of the reviews of that restaurant through the years I really enjoyed her reviews of Olive Garden and other food chains that I recognized I picked it up because it was An Anthony Bourdan Book I didn't realize he had selected books for print/reprint Now I have to find the others, or I have to go to Grand Forks and seek out some restaurants. Marilyn Hagerty is not a remarkable food critic, and Grand Forks, North Dakota is not really a hub of restaurant culture But what makes this book so interesting is story that is captured over time twenty five years of reviews are included here about dining in America In the early years, it's all about Blue Plate Specials, pot pies, and local specialties of Norwegian and Germanic cuisine [I freely admit to being previous unaware of lefse (a soft flat potato bread) and lutefisk (fish steeped in lye?!) before I picked up this book.] Then, slowly, the names of chain restaurants begin to encroach Taco Bell (a cool pastel oasis, per Mrs Hagerty), Subway (where you have to make too many choices), and Dairy Queen are among the first to appear They are later joined by McDonalds, Red Lobster, Wendy's, Arby's, Applebee's The heartbreaking element of this picture is written in the epigraphs following each review, how many of the small family owned businesses are no longer in business, and how many of the chains are still operating and thriving in the area Marilyn Hagerty reviews every new restaurant in town She goes to the chains, she revisits old favorites, she looks into the restaurants that operate out of truck stops, meals served at the VFW, local dinner theater offerings, and everything in between Her writing style reminds me of Dot Weems' bulletins in Fried Green Tomatoes and the Whistle Stop Cafe (Sample observation: Pretty good That's exactly what Constant Companion says when he is pleased with something Men don't get exuberant ) She is folksy and plain spoken She tells you what she likes (white table linens, cloth napkins, servers who do not swoop in to clear your plates before everyone in the party is done eating) and what she doesn't (spelling errors on menus, overly salty soup, plastic silverware).Through it all, she has a politeness that I associate with my grandmother's generation, a desire to accentuate the positive in any experience, instead of dwelling on the minuses of any particular restaurant experience She's also not a genuinely adventurous eater (if a Rueben or a club sandwich is on the menu, she may not need to look further for her order) but she is genuinely engaged in the enterprise of food reporting as she tries lavosh bread for the first time, or orders a chickpea curry, and even towards the end of the book octopus while in New York When she doesn't seem to like the food she might describe it as good enough or adequate and then quickly move on to describing the restaurant's decor in detail The book also winds up being an unintentional chronicle of life in Grand Forks both before and after the flood that ravaged this area of North Dakota in 1997 And a chronicle of Marilyn Hagerty's life before and after the death during the year they spend in Bismarck while Grand Forks was recovering from the devastation of her husband and Constant Companion You get a sense of her pluck as she goes out for new meals with friends old and new after she gets back to town Although this is a book that is composed entirely of restaurant reviews, it captures so muchin its pages The only reason that I am not giving this book five stars is that I think less might have beenin terms of some of the inclusions here Her unaffected style is great, but over the course of 128 reviews, starts to seem a bit repetitive towards the end But, as we are likely to see the end of daily printed newspapers in my lifetime, it makes me unaccountably happy that Marilyn Hagerty and her Eatbeat column can still exist in this world She is one of the last of her breed, and I really enjoyed her company over the course of this collection. Marilyn Hagerty is the first to say she's not a reviewer or a food critic Her Eatbeat column in the Grand Forks Herald is just that, a recounting of her culinary encounters in and around Grand Forks, North Dakota She visits each restaurant a few times, usually with friends in tow She doesn't hide who she isin a town of 55,000, she probably couldn'tbut she doesn't accept free meals, either.Marilyn's writing is straightforward and factual She lets you know her opinions about oversalted soups and sloppy coleslaw, but she doesn't pretend that these are anythingthan her opinion You taste the food with her tastebuds and see everything with her eyes.It's easy to see why Internet snark police thought Marilyn's polite but unenthusiastic column on Grand Forks's first Olive Garden was hilarious If you don't get that it's a personal experience column and not a review, it seems weird to devote ink to the Olive Garden In context, near the end of these 128 chronologically arranged reviews, you can see that her writeup damns it with faint praise.I was surprised that the frequently snippy Anthony Bourdain loved Marilyn's Eatbeat columns so His introduction talks about watching the lutefisk and walleye gradually disappear from menus, and seeing chain restaurants such as Red Lobster and Ruby Tuesday overtake the momandpop lunch spots He seems to understand that the Eatbeat columns make a timelapse movie of dining out in a Midwestern university town He seems to respect them, and Marilyn, for that.The form of the book disappointed me I didn't expect the multiplecolumn newspaper layout to remain, but the articles feel sort of dumped into the book Editorial notes follow some, but not all, of the articles It took me a while to realized that the notes appear only after the last article about a given restaurant The notes aren't consistent, either Some have quotes from Marilyn, some give details about business closures, and some just say that the restaurant continues to operate or no longer operates in Grand Forks It feels uneven.The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of any kind of index or table of contents I realize that few people will use this as a guidebook to eating in Grand Forks, and that's fine But that inconsistency in the notes wouldn't have bugged me so much if it were explained in an editor's note, or if a TOC or index could clue me in that I'd see another article on the same restaurant later in the book It doesn't seem like a serious treatment of a book that's billed as a historical document.All in all, Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews is a pleasant read and an interesting series of snapshots It's nostalgic for smalltown Midwesterners and an education for anyone who considers the Midwest a flyover zone. A little goes a long way! Whew It's fun reading these old reviews of restaurants in a small town in North Dakota(small to me though Professor Google tells me that at a population of 50,000 Grand Forks is the third largest town on the state Size is relative, huh?) However, is it nearly 250 pages of fun? Not for me My funometer petered out at about 100 pages and then I skimmed the rest Reading a 30 year old review of a diner, or even better, of MacDonalds and Taco Bell, is interesting I liked the author's pieces I just ran out of steam Once you've read a hundred of her reviews, you've read them all No need to keep going.

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