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Style & Living Food and Drinks

Elderly Critic Behind Viral Olive Garden Review Remembers Anthony Bourdain, Who Defended Her Against Trolls

Anthony Bourdain stood up for Marilyn Hagerty when the Internet roasted her.

By Alesandra Dubin

Let's take a moment to remember what happened back in 2012, when a North Dakota food critic named Marilyn Hagerty, who was pushing 90 years old at the time, wrote a restaurant review that lit up the Internet. She was covering the new Olive Garden restaurant in Grand Forks, referring to it as the town's "most beautiful." Internet trolls, as you might imagine, went right to town on her.

And guess who came to her defense? Indeed, it was lifelong champion of the people and appreciator of earnestness, Anthony Bourdain, who said he was "very much enjoying watching Internet sensation Marilyn Hagerty triumph over the snarkologists (myself included)."

He further noted rightly that hers was exactly the kind of review coastal elites need to see to avoid being utterly clueless about how most people actually live and eat in America. "Marilyn Hagerty's years of reviews to be a history of dining in the America too few of us from the coasts have seen. We need to see," he tweeted at the time.

A year later, Hagerty published a book of reviews. Bourdain edited the work, and wrote the foreword. It began: "If you’re looking for the kind of rapturous food porn you’d find in a book by M.F.K. Fisher, or lusty descriptions of sizzling kidneys a la Liebling — or even the knife-edged criticism of an AA Gill or a Sam Sifton — you will not find it here. The territory covered here is not New York or Paris or London or San Francisco. And Marilyn Hagerty is none of those people..."

He wrote that Hagerty's work refreshingly "kills snark dead."

After the news broke on Friday of Bourdain's tragic death by suicide at 61, Hagerty spoke to BuzzFeed News to remember the man who had defended and championed her.

"Anthony Bourdain spoke up for me at a time when people all over the country were making great fun of the column I write," Hagerty said. "To have a man of his stature rise up and befriend me, it meant a lot to me."

She added that Bourdain had first felt the Internet's snark reaction himself to her viral review, but — as he did in such other categories as sexist kitchen culture and the #MeToo movement — he was open to changing his mind to better ways of thinking. "He told me he felt the same way when he first read it, but that he changed his way of thinking," she told BuzzFeed News. "He decided I was writing about food in America and the way people eat in the middle of the country."

She added, "You know, sometimes you go through life and... you think about all the wonderful things that happened to you. And one of the wonderful things that happened to me was when Anthony Bourdain spoke up for me and wanted to publish my columns in a book."

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