Marilyn Hagerty, Kindred Spirit

September 3, 2013

By Karen

The book deal Anthony Bourdain forged with Marilyn Hagert bore fruit on August 27 when an anthology of her newspaper columns, Grand Forks, a History of American Dining in 128 Reviews, was released by Bourdain’s imprint at Ecco Press.

I still have no desire to read it, but I caught online last week this clip of Hagerty doing the Today Show.

Only in a galaxy far, far away would an author publishing 30-year-old material be getting even a nanosecond of air time on any national talk show. Indeed, during Hagerty’s interview, they flashed several pics of Bourdain, looking fetching, as if to explain why they were letting this relative nobody fill space between their commercial breaks.

But it was while Matt and Savannah had Marilyn taste and give a spot review on the latest NYC foodie obsession, the cronut, which Marilyn pronounced “chewy,” that it suddenly occurred to me…

In spite of all the attention she’s gotten from Bourdain and the foodie elite since her review of Olive Garden went viral, Marilyn Hagerty was, and always will be, an UnFoodie!

She eats at Taco Bell and McDonald’s. She eats things out of cans. She probably eats cheese slices wrapped in cellophane. And her readers do likewise. And they enjoy it.

In other words, like most of us, Marilyn Hagerty eats to live, she doesn’t live to eat.

As I watched Marilyn hold her own against that pair of New York sophisticates, possibly not even realizing she was defanging them with her innate civility and common sense, I felt great admiration for her.

In the airless, jaded realm of food worship, where the grosser and scarcer a thing is, the more tasty it must be, Marilyn Hagerty speaks with a clear voice for the goodness of a meatloaf made with ketchup and cheap hamburger.

(Yeah, I know Bourdain’s been saying pretty much the same thing while flogging her book, but somehow it rings hollow coming out of his ortolon-tainted mouth. I, on the other hand, have no dog in this fight.)

The plain food we UnFoodies eat is OK, too. Sometimes it’s even tasty. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We shouldn’t feel bad about being grossed out by bugs and animal guts. It’s OK if our cheese is wrapped in plastic so it doesn’t get moldy.

Marilyn, you go, girl!


Bourdain Goes Short (Story)

August 16, 2013

By Karen

Mark your calendar. Anthony Bourdain’s got a short story in the #8 issue of Lucky Peach, which is themed “The Gender Issue.” The magazine is on newsstands September 13. I think I’ve seen it in Target, so I won’t miss Tony’s latest foray into fiction. I wonder if it’s a preview of the novel he’s been working on?

But before that…

On August 27, Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews by Marilyn Hagerty, is being released by Bourdain’s imprint at Ecco Press.

UPDATE: Eater has published the full text of Bourdain’s foreword to the book. Nicely done, Tony. But the book still sounds like a snooze.

Since Grand Forks happens to be Hagerty’s stomping grounds, the title is brilliant, but the cover design evokes the ‘50s. I predict if sales are disappointing, that cover will become a scapegoat.

It’s only available in paperback and retails for $14.99. ($11.98 on Amazon.)

Hagerty is 86 now, and when not asking myself, “Why, God, WHY HER??!! I’ve been happy for her to finally see her work in bound form after all her decades in newsprint.

UNTIL I just learned the Grand Forks Herald published The Best of The Eatbeat with Marilyn Hagerty as a 99-cent, 59-page Kindle e-book last year after her Olive Garden review went viral and Bourdain started sniffing around.

AND in 1994, her paper published a hefty paperback anthology of her work called, Echoes, A Selection of Stories and Columns. It’s now out of print, but 2 autographed, exorbitantly-priced copies are available on Amazon.

UPDATE: One copy has disappeared since I started writing this, so some idiot astute collector must have snapped it up.

As for Grand Forks, my inner UnFoodie has this reaction to reading decades-old reviews of local joints in North Dakota, sandwiched between covers that remind me of My Little Margie, even if annotated with updates on their status today…

Who cares?

But it will be interesting to see if the foodie fire Hagerty lit with her earnest Olive Garden piece still burns hot and consumes enough copies to propel her to the bestseller list.


Bourdain in Travel Channel Home Stretch

September 10, 2012

By Karen

I’ve lost count of No Reservations’ seasons. Some are calling the current new episodes Season 9. According to my DVD recordings, it’s part 2 of Season 8. But if you count how Travel Channel lopped Season 7 into two last year, this would be Season 10.

Anyway, in the opener, Tony visited Austin, TX, where, in addition to the world’s best barbecue, he seemed to be in search of that elusive, probably mythical, demographic — young males who prefer food porn to the usual type, enjoy hanging out with 50-something-old dudes, and who think anybody who makes noise on an instrument and screams incoherently is playing “music.”

About 10 minutes in, I found myself stealing glances at the clock to see how much longer I had to suffer (I was taping it). As it turns out, I was in good company with the New York Times.

So it didn’t float my boat to watch Bourdain play rock band groupie, eat BBQ, and deface himself again with yet another tat (not a gargoyle or a tarantula, as you might expect, but a cute little sun on his left forearm). But I still have high hopes for whatever’s left of NR.

Here are a few other things I’ve collected…

On August 15, Tony did a live “hangout” on Zagat’s Google+ page where he answered fan questions.

In November, Tony’s road show morphs into the “Guts and Glory Tour,” with supposedly fresh material. He’s even got a new logo and it has an official site.

I’m idly toying with catching it when he goes to Baltimore.

Tony’s appearances with Eric Ripert as “Good vs. Evil” also have their own site.

Now, here’s a mystery…

Some weeks ago, a blogger named Colman Andrews with The Daily Meal cruelly trashed Marilyn Hagerty in a column titled, “Does Anyone Get the Joke?” — you remember Marilyn, that nice lady from Grand Forks whose unabashed admiration for Olive Garden earned her a book deal with Bourdain’s imprint.

Bourdain quickly struck back at Andrews on Twitter, claiming that Hagerty’s book will be “an extraordinary and beautiful thing.”

I didn’t totally disagree with Andrews. Bourdain undoubtedly believes that exhuming Hagerty’s work to enlighten us all on what “the heartland” ate 30 years ago is a noble quest. His name will probably appear on the book’s cover larger than Hagerty’s to drive initial sales — and then the book will sink like a stone.

Bourdain told Zagat in August he’s perused about half of Hagerty’s oeuvre of 7,500 pages, searching for the gems he’ll publish.

Better him than me.

And finally, from the Tony’s Friends Dept…

As it turns out, Zamir’s not a shiftless deadbeat Tony found in a Russian gutter, but an accomplished documentary filmmaker. Who knew?

Eric Ripert’s latest On the Table interview featured Mario Batali.


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