Olive Your Base Are Belong to Us

For the most part, I’m pretty good at keeping up with the current Internet meme(s).  Yo dog, Hey girl, I don’t always…but when I do, and what not.  And here’s a little secret: If I don’t know what they are referring to (e.g.: I took an arrow in the knee), I do what any 40-something trying to stay hip would do.  I Google it.

And, I don’t usually comment on these things because a) they’re generally ephemeral and b) who really gives a crap?

But I saw mention of a recent one today on a friend’s Facebook page, got subsequently swept up in the link-following, and the article reading and the comments-following-the-articles reading, and here we are.

Today, Sunday, March 18, 2012, I have seen what is quite possibly the stupidest thing on the Internet.  More stupid than that Asian kid from American Idol whose name escapes me—See? Ephemeral—singing She Bangs.  More stupid than the girl who quit her job using dry-erase boards.  More stupid than the last page of the Internet.    Even more stupid than the wedding shot my niece photo-shopped so she’s the bride and Tim Tebow is the groom. (Relatives. What can you do?)

And what, you may ask, is the thing that is quite possibly the stupidest thing on the Internet?

This:

After a lengthy wait for Olive Garden to open in Grand Forks, the lines were long in February. The novelty is slowly wearing off, but the steady following attests the warm welcome.

My first visit to Olive Garden was during midafternoon, so I could be sure to get in. After a late breakfast, I figured a late lunch would be fashionable.

The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting.

My booth was near the kitchen, and I watched the waiters in white shirts, ties, black trousers and aprons adorned with gold-colored towels. They were busy at midday, punching in orders and carrying out bread and pasta.

It had been a few years since I ate at the older Olive Garden in Fargo, so I studied the two manageable menus offering appetizers, soups and salads, grilled sandwiches, pizza, classic dishes, chicken and seafood and filled pastas.

At length, I asked my server what she would recommend. She suggested chicken Alfredo, and I went with that. Instead of the raspberry lemonade she suggested, I drank water.

She first brought me the familiar Olive Garden salad bowl with crisp greens, peppers, onion rings and yes — several black olives. Along with it came a plate with two long, warm breadsticks.

The chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day. The portion was generous. My server was ready with Parmesan cheese.

As I ate, I noticed the vases and planters with permanent flower displays on the ledges. There are several dining areas with arched doorways. And there is a fireplace that adds warmth to the decor.

Olive Garden has an attractive bar area to the right of the entryway. The restaurant has a full liquor license and a wine list offering a wide selection to complement Italian meals. Nonalcoholic beverages include coolers, specialty coffees and hot teas.

On a hot summer day, I will try the raspberry lemonade that was recommended.

There’s a homemade soup, salad and breadstick lunch available until 4 p.m. daily for $6.95.

An olive branch on menu items signified low-fat entrees. There is a Garden Fare Nutrition Guide available for customers seeking gluten-free food. And for those with food allergies, Olive Garden has an Allergen Information Guide.

All in all, it is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks. It attracts visitors from out of town as well as people who live here.

Olive Garden is part of the Darden chain of restaurants that also operates Red Lobster. There are about 700 restaurants, including four Olive Gardens in North Dakota’s major cities.

Olive Garden has gained a following since 1982 with its ample portions and relaxed ambience. It’s known for its classic lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo and chicken Parmigiana.

The stupid thing is not the article itself, but the ridiculous amount of attention it has garnered.

A brief summary of events for those who may not know about this (if that’s even possible considering the viral-ness (Yes, I made that up) of it.)

  1. Little old lady writes review of newly opened Olive Garden for her small-town newspaper.
  2. The entire Internet caves in on itself.

Really.

This lady has been on The Today Show.  She turned down Leno.

I’m not kidding.

Have we now reached such a nadir in our search for the amusing that we have taken something truly ordinary and uninteresting in almost every imaginable way and made it an overnight Net sensation?

Apparently.

Apparently, people find it hilarious that a someone would review a chain restaurant.

And, apparently, people everywhere, regardless of national origin, are outraged because they say this little old lady touts Olive Garden as the flagship of Italian cuisine.

First off, having both lived in and read a newspaper from a small town, let me assure you there is nothing in this lady’s article to warrant the attention it has received.  It is neither hilarious nor inflammatory.

It’s certainly not funny.  Quaint, perhaps.  But not humorous. AT. ALL.  It is glaringly obvious that the people who find amusement in a pretty standard article for a small-town publication are starved for entertainment.  If we’re going to poke fun at items in a small-town newspaper, why not comment on the hilarity of the weekly IGA ad? Look, chicken’s on sale. Heh heh heh. Or the 0.9% financing at Billy Bob’s Ford. Bwahahahahaha. Or, hey, let’s yuck it up over the yard sale at the Baptist church. Seriously, stoppit.  I’ma pee myself.

And second, LEARN.TO.READ., for Pete’s sake.

Nowhere in the entire article does this lady say Olive Garden is the best restaurant ever.  She says it is the largest and most beautiful in her town, both of which may very well be true.  I’ve lived places where Hardee’s is the biggest and best-looking place to eat.  It happens.

Nor does she at any point comment on the taste of the food.  Just the temperature and the quantity.  The rest of her observations are about the aesthetics of the restaurant itself: how the wait staff is dressed, the flowers on the table, and the entryway décor.

She goes on to list the prices of her own selected entrée along with the price of a typical lunch special.

How on earth did this thing not only go viral, but also become a meme?

The only truly remarkable thing I found while reading her article was a limited amount of bias. Sure, she uses a couple of adjectives like large and beautiful, but I certainly didn’t get the feeling she was gushing about how fabulous it was. And her recount of the menu offerings, prices, background and general operation of the restaurant are relatively factual.  Her reporting, was—compared to the left- and right-winged crap we’re fed now—fairly objective.

Maybe that’s the real reason it got so much attention.  It whipped everyone into an overblown frenzy because it has elements of actual journalism.

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One Response to Olive Your Base Are Belong to Us

  1. Ree says:

    Ridiculousness. I am willing to bet that many of the people mocking this woman also live in their parents’ basement. Sad that we’ve all gotten so judgey judgerson that a small town actually getting a “nice” place to eat that serves families at affordable prices, and having the local paper review it, becomes the source of Internet mockery. Having lived in the Upper Midwest, it is a pleasure to go to chains like this sometimes because supply may be coming close to meeting demand and Friday night dinner may no longer mean a 90-minute wait at a chain or a mom-and-pop. And this really is fine journalism compared to a lot of small town papers. ;)

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