But City Pages' response was what mattered to me. They didn't even blink.
In retrospect, I think during the weeks after that review ran was when I really became a restaurant critic, when I dug in and decided that certain rather trivial things were in fact worth going to the mat for: the right to have your water glass refilled, the right to eat lobster ravioli without shells in it, the right to have decent wine at a decent mark-up.
Check, please: Dara has eaten her last meal for City Pages
It was funny, all my teenage conflations about the nobility of Minnesota and Truth came together in a Bill of Rights for your water glass. And your pad thai.
Over the years, I've learned that the relationship between columnist and community is more collaborative than I could have known at the outset, and I have been, all these years, dazzled by the letters I get from my readers—my dear, literate Minnesotans with your heartfelt, insightful, funny, or otherwise unpredictable takes on the world of food and Dara.
I guess one thing I wanted to do in this mini-memoir was lay bare some of the behind-the-scenes things from my side of the typewriter, but now I realize there's no room. So much of my life happened these last almost-11 years. I bought a big, falling-down Victorian four-square in a bad neighborhood in south Minneapolis, and, after many years when it looked like the renovation might just kill me, I now have a real house with a porch swing and a rosebush and everything, just like the people Sinclair Lewis mocked. I'm so proud. My dad died, hopefully joining Thorstein Veblen at the great economics conference in the sky. I fell in love with a nice Minnesota boy, who won my heart the night he effortlessly, happily spent a night checking out both a godawful Colombian restaurant in Northeast and a pretentious wine bar in White Bear Lake (both unreviewed; that's another behind-the-scenes thing—all the frogs I kissed that stayed frogs). We got married, we had a bouncing baby boy. Over the years I won a bunch of awards, both for my fiction and my food writing. I launched a freelance career that has given me a small national presence, and I think the next task for me is to leverage that into something bigger. And so I'm off!
It's funny, looking back on all this, as addled as my little teenage brain was, as dreamy and idealistic as my post-college self was, they did me right. Minnesota turned out to be the perfect place for me, the place, indeed, where Truth, or rather Truths, long-winded though they be, are valued by patient, kind readers. So I've been telling my truths as best I can in this space for almost 11 years, and to all of you who came along for the ride, I'm incredibly grateful.