Book of the Week: Grand Forks – Marilyn Hagerty

Some of you probably know the back story on this one. Hagerty is the 86-year-old food critic whose Olive Garden review became an overnight Internet sensation. She had been writing for her local North Dakota newspaper, the Grand Forks Herald, for fifty years when her review of a new local Olive Garden went viral. Snarky blog posts and tweets quickly mounted and page views for the review jumped to 300,000 in three days. The review has since been viewed millions of times. (You can follow the review’s evolution to meme here on Know Your Meme.)

It was shaping up to one big session of foodies shooting fish in a barrel until Tony Bourdain stepped in. His initial tweet slapped down a lot of haters. He went on to sign a collection of her reviews for his imprint, Anthony Bourdain Books, writing that Ms. Hagerty’s pieces offer…

[a] history of American dining–in the vast spaces between the jaded palates and professional snarkologists of the privileged coasts–as told by one hard-working small city journalist, which tells the story of the triumphs and failures of dozens of small business people who dared to dream. We 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.”

Bourdain saw that the snark was more about the need of commenters to assert themselves than what Hagerty’s reviews actually added up to. He sees her canon as a portrait of how Americans have chosen to eat out over the last half century, a cultural commentary on American foodways. We’re publishing this as a trade paper original with a breezy mid-century modern cover treatment that does a nice of communicating the feel of the book.

The media loved the initial story and Hagerty appeared on every major network and has been the subject of countless articles in almost every major paper, from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times. Round two starts when she is interviewed on the Today show on Tuesday, August 27th. Bourdain is a passionate promoter of his books so expect more attention. It should be fun!

Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews (9780062228895) by Marilyn Hagerty. $14.99 trade paper original. 8/27/13 on sale.

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