Reviewer gives mediocrity a good name
Internet connection as unintentionally hilarious. Soon it went viral, and Hagerty was signed to the HarperCollins imprint of New York chef Anthony Bourdain, who says in his foreword here that she “kills snark dead.” Reading this book from cover to cover kills something, most likely one’s appetite. Hagerty eats an endless succession of clubhouse sandwiches, baked potatoes and chicken salads. Everything she tries is “tasty” or “good.”
Any single review, taken in isolation, might be charmingly folksy. But taken ttogether, they’re like gorging on bags aand bags of potato chips.
“Canned green beans taste good to me,” she writes in a 1991 review of the RRoyal Fork Buffet in the Columbia Mall. “I’ve always like them, so I piled a big helping on my plate, along with some spaghetti.”
The book’s type is set in two narrow columns per page, the font a variant of Times Roman, to suggest ephemeral newspaper copy.
Parochial to a fault, she never takes the short drive north across the border to visit a city with real restaurants. True, in March 2011, she mentions a Winnipeg businesswoman, “Pam,” who has asked her to recommend a decent lobster bisque in Grand Forks now that the landmark Whitey’s has closed.
“I told Pam,” she writes, “I had a pretty good lobster bisque at Red Lobster on 32nd Avenue South and Columbia Road.”
As much as Bourdain and HarperCollins might protest, there appears to be but one reason for this book — to mock Hagerty as a hick from North Dakota.
Even as service journalism, the book has little value, because half the restaurants she writes about have closed their doors — many casualties of the 1997 flood.
In her defence, Hagerty claims to be a reporter, not a critic. But she is closer to being a stenographer or a PR agent. A reporter, at least occasionally, reports something that makes somebody uncomfortable.
At least her title, Grand Forks, is witty, and not just for the amusing contrast between her city’s name and its gastronomic tedium.
It calls to mind the famous Coen brothers black comedy Fargo, named after that other prime North Dakota destination. In Hagerty’s homespun prose, you hear the flat vowels of the movie’s heroine, prairie policewoman Marge Gunderson.
These women are soulmates, right down to their cast-iron stomachs. The only difference is that Marge solved crimes. Hagerty is still committing them.