News & Features

How an Olive Garden in Grand Forks Sparked the Internet Sensation- Marilyn Hagerty

March 09 2012 - 9:36 AM

"The chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day. The portion was generous. My server was ready with Parmesan cheese." So wrote one 85-year-old Marilyn Hagerty, columnist and EatBeat column writer for the Grand Forks Herald. The restaurant under scrutiny? The new Olive Garden in town.

Hagerty's straight-forward, honest review of the latest addition to Grand Fork's dining "scene" went viral yesterday, earning her a clearly unintentional spot in the national spotlight, as well as some "snotty" emails. The food blogosphere was abuzz with her defenders and detractors: Was this really food criticism? Are we all giant snobs, out-of-touch with how average Americans eat? After all, Hagerty told The Village Voice in a follow-up interview, The Olive Garden's opening "was one of the biggest deals in ages. The rumors had been floating around for a decade. [Whispers] The Olive Garden is coming to town."

Like Susan Boyle or that cat that rode a Roomba, Hagerty will have her 15 minutes of Internet fame. After the buzz dies down (which happens quickly online; she's probably already aged 50 years in Internet terms), hopefully she'll be back at her desk, writing her column as she always had before, ignoring her anonymous comment board detractors. But the questions her review raised will hopefully linger a bit longer, forcing foodies to confront their own biases, taste levels, and assumptions. In the meantime, please pass the bottomless breadsticks.

–Kate Bernot