Not everyone cares about politics. The majority of people skip by the Washington D.C. talking heads’ analysis of candidate missteps or even the tragic killing of a Florida teen armed with a pack of Skittles. Here in the “sticks” folks are more concerned with who got booted off “The Voice” or which lucky devil won the mega-million lottery.
Away from large urban areas, people go about their business with a more ambling view of what is important. And that’s why I cannot criticize or make fun of the North Dakota town newspaper columnist who became an internet sensation with her comments on a newly-opened Olive Garden.
Marilyn Hagerty writes homey restaurant reviews for the newspaper in Grand Forks. North Dakota is hardly a tourist magnet, and I imagine Grand Forks doesn’t pretend to be the entertainment mecca of the midwest. A university town in the Red River Valley, it is isolated from major metropolitan areas. Its population is less than that of Bountiful-North Salt Lake; for every Starbucks, there are probably 480 prairie dogs.
For towns like this, a major chain restaurant is more than economic development; it’s an event. Naturally Marilyn visited and shared her thoughts.
She wrote that the restaurant was “impressive.” She noted that her salad came with “crisp greens, peppers, onion rings, and – yes – several black olives.” She asked her server to recommend an entre and a beverage, though she passed on the raspberry lemonade until she returns “on a hot summer day.” She told her readers that the beautiful restaurant had “vases and planters with permanent displays on the ledges”, and, in the end, recommended Olive Garden for its “ample portions and relaxed ambience.”
And she quickly became the butt of jokes from city-dwellers who see Olive Gardens as unimaginative cookie-cutter eateries unworthy of attention or review. Only in desolate “fly-over” country, laughed her critics, could somebody be thrilled by “two long, warm breadsticks.”
Maybe it’s the city-dwelling “foodies” who are out of touch. Outside of metro areas and their celebrity chef restaurants, folks don’t care too much about restaurant critics appraising a wine with a “hint of oak and a temperament of spice.” We don’t care that there is a lack of color in the three-pepper vegetable medley or that our halibut needed a little less sprinkling of vinaigrette. We can enjoy the grilled salmon without complaining about the delicacy of the mango salsa. When we hear of Wolfgang Puck, we immediately think of hockey, not a chef.
I love exquisite food, but I’m not going to demean a successful chain restaurant that comes to town and employs workers