Promise me you will boycott the men’s lifestyle blog “Guyism.” The reason you will do this is because they described 85 year old food critic Marilyn Hagerty’s column on the new Olive Garden that opened in Grand Forks, North Dakota as…
A few excerpts from her March 7 review for the “Grand Forks Herald” newspaper:
The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway.
The chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day. The portion was generous. My server was ready with Parmesan cheese.
On a hot summer day, I will try the raspberry lemonade that was recommended.
All in all, it is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks.
Okay. So there’s an Olive Garden in a bland outdoor mall not a mile from where we live, and we, like the good folks at Guyism, have sneered at it – me, my wife and my sons – as we’ve driven past. On road trips, when we’ve been starving and desperate, we’ve eaten at TGIFriday’s and Outback Steakhouse, all the while snickering at the middle American cheesiness of it all.
So why did this obscure, sincere little review of “the most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks” go viral? Why, 56 hours after its publication, had it received 300,000 views? Why has Ms. Hagerty been interviewed on “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America,” and why has the Herald newspaper sent her to New York, one of our epicenters of snark, to eat at, among other places, Le Bernardin, courtesy of Anthony Bourdain?
Because we’re all craving a little sincerity and sweetness.
We’re all secretly sick of air quotes.
Deep down, we all know snarkiness, sarcasm and irony are ways of avoiding commitment. They’re affectations which allow us to avoid taking a potentially unpopular stance and sticking with it. If I say I “absolutely adore” Applebee’s “ultimate trio” lunch or Glen Campbell’s song “Rhinestone Cowboy”…
….and overdo it just a notch, even if I do happen to absolutely adore them, I can distance myself from my own opinion to avoid being looked down upon by my peers. Sincerity is hard. Sincerity means putting yourself out there without a shield.
Ms. Hagerty’s tone also opens a window into some of the other welcome offshoots of sincerity: straightforwardness; innocence; an open mind; an ability to appreciate something without filtering it through our meta-addled-pop-culture collective mind.
She simply says what she believes. That’s it.
When asked about some of the negative comments she initially received for praising a restaurant that most high brow critics wouldn’t dream of giving the time of day to, she responded, “I do not have time to let myself be bothered or read all that stuff. I have a Sunday column I’m doing now about a completely different subject.”
That’s right. Along with air quotes, she’s thrown pettiness out the window.
Of her trip to New York, Ms. Hagerty commented, in reviewing a “dirty-water dog,” (whatever that is), it could’ve been “a little hotter,” but that she liked the “combination of mustard and onions.”
She liked the combination of mustard and onions.
Feelings of generosity, warmth and human connection flow through me when I read her words. And, most of all, admiration: Ms. Hagerty, apparently, has managed to spend eight decades on this jaded planet without having an iota of its knowing insincerity rub off on her.
Anthony Bourdain put it succinctly in a tweet: “Very much enjoy watching Internet sensation Marilyn Hagerty triumph over the snarkologists (myself included).”