Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Recently there was a brief but mighty blip in the interwebs, involving 85 year old Marilyn Hagerty, of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Ms. Hagerty, despite her golden years, is a columnist for the Grand Forks Herald, including “Eatbeat” a restaurant review column.

The frenzy began when Ms. Hagerty reviewed the Olive Garden restaurant, which had just opened in Grand Forks. Her review was a nice, sincere account of her visit. Having once lived in a small town in Illinois (population 7000), I can tell you that getting any chain restaurant to open is a cause for celebration. When McDonald’s came to town, I was beside myself with joy. But I digress.

Once the review was posted, some snotty-nosed snark-faced bloggers and twitterers pounced, mocking anyone who would review a chain restaurant. And to review it irony-free! How dare she! To you kids, I say, GET A JOB. I also say, QUIT MAKING FUN OF THIS NICE OLD LADY. She’s employed, are you? Or are you sponging off of Mom and Dad, or living on somebody’s couch?

Subsequently, as her review went viral, the rest of the internet decided they had better talk nice, because making fun of nice 85-year old ladies is kind of the pinnacle of douche-i-ness. And besides, SHE HAS A JOB, do you?

I have a confession to make: I like the Olive Garden. I like their soup and salad and breadstick lunch. I like their meatballs, you can eat half and have the rest for lunch tomorrow. And I like their white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. So sue me.

Coming from Chicago, this may seem to be blasphemy, or at least approaching trailer trash-talk. Chicago is considered a mecca for foodies, and is the home of several palaces of “molecular gastronomy”, including Moto, which claims to be like “taking part in a multi-sensory science experiment”, and providing a “post-modern, interactive and fantastical gastronomical ride”. Seriously? Now that I’m out of high school, I would prefer not to pay top dollar to take part in a science experiment, especially since back then it usually involved dissecting frogs which always ended up being the females and full of yukky eggs. Restaurants such as Moto strive to “deconstruct” food, in other words, make it not look like food. I invite you to check out the pictures on their web site. What exactly are you eating?

But the Big Kahuna, the Superbowl of fancy schmancy restaurants, is Alinea. Considered one of the finest restaurants in the world, Alinea attempts to relieve you of $210 for its 20+ course dinner, not including drinks, of course. Inspecting their website, I find that the sample menu features “Wooly Pig with fennel, orange, and squid”. Mmmm. I tend to avoid eating wooly food, as it has usually resided in my refrigerator too long. My restaurant correspondent, a close relative of mine, has actually been to Alinea, and she reports that dessert involved the chef squirting chocolate stuff all over the tablecloth. Really. Honey, I can do that at home for you and charge you much less. Where’s the Hershey’s syrup?

Hey, guys, wouldn’t it be fun to compare Olive Garden to Alinea? Let’s keep score, and see who wins!

The front of Alinea

 1. Location: Alinea has no sign on its door. You just have to Know. In contrast, Olive Gardens have large signs in front of them, usually with pictures of grapes on them. You can feel confident when you walk in the door that you are in a restaurant, and not a methadone clinic or somebody's trendy hipster townhouse. Score 1 for Olive Garden.

The front of an Olive Garden
 2. Alinea’s prix fixe menu is $210. That means fixed price, you backwoods heathens. Not including wine. My culinary correspondent informs me that she and a friend forked over $600 for dinner for two. Olive Garden charges $6.95 for its soup, salad and breadstick lunch. Not too shabby. Add a glass of wine or two, and you’re still under $20. Score 1 for Olive Garden.

3. It can take 4 or 5 hours to eat at Alinea. You can stuff your face and get out of Olive Garden in an hour or so. Frankly, I just don’t know anybody I want to talk to for 5 hours straight while waiting for the interminable procession of unrecognizable food. Nope, can’t think of anybody. Score 1 for Olive Garden.

4. At Alinea, people take pictures of their dinner and post them on Flickr. You don’t have to do that at the Olive Garden. Nobody needs to see a picture of your meatball. Score 1 for Olive Garden.

5. And most importantly, at Alinea, you may not know what you are eating until the waitstaff explains it to you. They may even have to instruct you how to eat it. At the Olive Garden, you can usually recognize your food. And you use a knife and fork, the way the dear Lord and your mother wanted you to eat.

So, in summary, it looks like the Olive Garden wins hands down over Alinea, 5-0. So don’t you brats blogging on your Ipads make fun of that nice old lady. She knows a winner when she sees one.

Friday, March 09, 2012


It’s been a hard week for womankind. We’ve been called sluts and prostitutes, our access to contraception is being questioned by old white men, and Rick Santorum would like to keep us barefoot and pregnant. What a country! It seems that the current conversation on women’s rights (or should we even have them?) has regressed to Neanderthal times. (“Ugh! Me hit you on head! What’s for dinner?”)

However, the most alarming, frightening, insidious threat to womankind is not even publicly recognized. That which confines us, which limits our activities, which hampers our very movement and joy of life. Yes, ladies, you know what I’m talkin’ about.


For the uninitiated, Spanx are the latest reiteration of the girdle of the 1950’s. Also known as “shapewear” (a term obviously coined by marketing majors), Spanx are a torture device for women which consists of stretchy underwear which extends down the thighs and often up past the waist, all in the line of duty, smoothing those unrepenting fat rolls which love to gather about the midsection of many females.

 The Spanx web site advertises “Tummy-taming”, “Thigh-trimming”, and “Butt boosting” Body Shapers, in order to convince the rest of the world that the wearer has the body of a 20 year old, despite having been around the block a few times. I’m amazed that the Spanx people haven’t devised a Shaper yet that just pulls all the way up past the chin to cover the mouth, in order to control those female outbursts demanding contraception. It could be advertised as “Rushwear!”

 “Sluts! Prostitutes! Try Rush Limbaugh’s new line of shapewear, for the woman who just can’t keep her mouth shut! Control your fat, control your mouth! Ask for Rushwear at your lingerie counter!”

I personally hate Spanx. The obvious comparison is that of a sausage stuffed in a too-small casing. And besides being uncomfortable, they are a health risk. As a Medical Professional, I am here to warn you of the dangers of tight clothing.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal listed some of the many dangers:
  • Nerve compression
  •  Digestive issues
  • Lightheadedness from inability to expand the lungs enough for adequate oxygen intake
  • Painful welts where the apparel digs into the skin
All this suffering just to erase the muffin top! I say, honor the muffin top. Rejoice in that extra flesh! Celebrate that you have extra calories stored away when civilization ends as we know it (or, as Republicans would infer, if Obama gets elected again). Just as in baking, where the top of the muffin is often the good stuff, so should we consider our muffin tops the good stuff, and stop trying to conceal them in latex and spandex. 

And you male readers, you’re not off the hook. Look! There is shapewear for men! Amusingly called “Manx” , they are designed to “eliminate bulk under clothes”. A nice way of saying, Yeah, fatso, we’re talkin’ to you.

There is a bright side to the shapewear threat, however. Used as a contraceptive, Spanx/Manx can handily prevent conception, as the mood will have passed and the Barry White tape be over by the time the shapewear is removed. And Rick Santorum can breathe a sign of relief.

Friday, March 02, 2012


It’s the time of year again when the media goes college-bound: articles about getting into a fancy school, how to pay for that fancy school, how to cope if your child doesn’t get into a fancy school. One would think that any child who didn’t get accepted into an Ivy should just hang up their hopes and dreams and become a crack addict. The amount of parental angst, if it could be converted into BTUs, could power Times Square. Parents hire “college consultants”, make campus visits, and write help with their little darlings’ personal statements.

I find this all very amusing, as it is the antithesis of my college experience.

When I was a girl, my father sat me down to have The Talk about college. The Talk went something like this: “You can go to any state school in Illinois”. (Actually, that was exactly The Talk). Well, that certainly cleared things up. My father had given older brother the same talk. Older brother had flirted with the idea of the priesthood, and had wanted to go to Notre Dame, but that idea was quashed pretty damn quick. As attractive it was for a good Catholic family to have a son as a priest, state tuition was more important. Older brother ended up going to a state school in Illinois, where he discovered sorority girls and immediately forgot about this priest nonsense.

So I applied to Big Ass State University (BASU), because they had an engineering department, and I was so smart, I was going to be an engineer. Not just engineering, but Engineering Physics. No, I had no idea what that was, but it sounded impressive.

Off I went to BASU, that of the low tuition and teeming hordes of students. Mom and Dad dropped me off (none of this silly orientation foolishness), and hightailed it home, where they probably cracked open the Cold Duck and planned their trip to Europe (20 countries in 21 days!)

At BASU, I cried from homesickness for about 4 months, until one morning when I woke up and realized that I could 1) do whatever I damn well pleased and 2) get into any campus bar with just my university ID. I ended up joining a sorority, got a cute frat boy boyfriend, and immediately dropped Engineering Physics because, shit, Calculus was HARD. Psychology, my new easier major, was much more relevant and I could plan on Saving the World.

BASU was a fine experience, because nobody really gave a crap about us. My psychology advisor put up a sign every semester during class enrollment time, stating that he was unavailable for advising. Our undergraduate classes were primary taught by TA’s (teaching assistants), some of who actually spoke English. The bulging, flatulent BASU bureaucracy became our obstacle course to master. BASU gave us a big taste of the real world.

Of course, I do still have recurrent nightmares in which I get my report card, which informs me that I flunked Norwegian. Oh, no! I don’t remember even signing up for Norwegian! And it’s on my permanent record!

Despite these hardships, I have such fond memories of BASU. The smell of fresh manure wafting over campus in the spring, heralding the new fertilization of the campus agriculture farms. The mind-numbing expanse of cornfields that surrounded the campus. And, of course, did I mention being able to get into campus bars with just my university ID?

My fellow BASU students and I have managed, despite these humble beginnings, to sort of succeed in the real world, in that none of us are crack addicts or are living in a storage unit. So, parents, relax. After all, if your kid goes to Fancy U to major in Medieval Musical Instruments, she’s just going to become a waitress anyway.