A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews
By Marilyn Hagerty
(Anthony Bourdain/Ecco, Paperback, 9780062228895, 237pp.)
Publication Date: August 2013
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Once upon a time, salad was iceberg lettuce with a few shredded carrots and a cucumber slice, if you were lucky. A vegetable side was potatoes--would you like those baked, mashed, or au gratin? A nice anniversary dinner? Would you rather visit the Holiday Inn or the Regency Inn? In Grand Forks, North Dakota, a small town where professors moonlight as farmers, farmers moonlight as football coaches, and everyone loves hockey, one woman has had the answers for more than twenty-five years: Marilyn Hagerty. In her weekly Eatbeat column in the local paper, Marilyn gives the denizens of Grand Forks the straight scoop on everything from the best blue plate specials--beef stroganoff at the Pantry--to the choicest truck stops--the Big Sioux (and its lutefisk lunch special)--to the ambience of the town's first Taco Bell. Her verdict? "A cool pastel oasis on a hot day."
No-nonsense but wry, earnest but self-aware, Eatbeat also encourages the best in its readers--reminding them to tip well and why--and serves as its own kind of down-home social register, peopled with stories of ex-postal workers turned cafe owners and prom queen waitresses. Filled with reviews of the mom-and-pop diners that eventually gave way to fast-food joints and the Norwegian specialties that finally faded away in the face of the Olive Garden's endless breadsticks, Grand Forks is more than just a loving look at the shifts in American dining in the last years of the twentieth century--it is also a surprisingly moving and hilarious portrait of the quintessential American town, one we all recognize in our hearts regardless of where we're from.
Eighty-seven-year-old restaurant critic Marilyn Hagerty gained viral fame last year with a positive review of the Olive Garden in Grand Forks, N.D. Her work has now been collected in a new book, Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews. More at NPR.org
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