The news of Jonathan Gold's death, yesterday, hit me even harder than the death of Anthony Bourdain; for me, as a writer about food, these were the first two I looked to, pretty much every time I sat down and attempted the painful and horrible act of writing anything. Not that I aspired to be them. As someone who hates to travel, I let Bourdain do the traveling for me. With Jonathan Gold, knowing that there was always someone doing something I aspired to do, but would never be able to come close to—as far a knowledge, wisdom, humor, and just pure writing—was not daunting, but somehow comforting.
On any given day I could look for something recent he'd written, online, for sustenance—inspiration with much more consistency and dependability than finding something out there to eat that inspired me. His book Counter Intelligence (2000), a Los Angeles food guide, sits by my bed. As a restaurant guide it's, of course, hopelessly outdated, but still it's invaluable—I will open it to a random page and just start reading in the middle of a review and be immediately energized and transported to places—impossible to find and maybe unknown, even to Angelenos—who make something (often that I've never eaten) better than any place outside of the country of origin of its cuisine. And may be long gone, given the brutal nature of the restaurant business, and the war on non-white people, and time. There's probably a story behind why there is not a (or several) follow-ups to this book—by a Pulitzer Prize winning food writer—or it may just be the current condition of book publishing vs. the Internet. But the book is worth tracking down. If his brief introduction—about how, as a much younger person, he decided to methodically eat his way the length of Pico Boulevard as a way of discovering his city—is not inspiring to you—well, I'm sure it is inspiring to you. The 2015 documentary City of Gold is also worth seeing, if you haven't, or again.
I've never wanted to be anyone but myself, but as a person who loves to explore through food and restaurants, once I discovered Jonathan Gold, he came the closest as a role model. His knowledge, wit, style, and larger view can only be aspired to. But as a New Yorker who can't drive, Los Angeles may as well be Mars. As a recovering alcoholic, a career as a food writer was never an option for me, as wine and fine dining go together like money and success. And as someone with celiac disease, the most ambitious I could ever hope to be was a celiac food writer. Thus, I am thankful for my position as food critic for rspeen.com, a job which, as of late, my output has woefully matched my paycheck. But I get it—there doesn't have to be money in it when there is joy. For a much too brief time, Jonathan Gold was who everyone who wrote about food wanted to be. There's quite a lot of writing by him, out there, at least, that we can keep being inspired by. As for me, I'll try to do better.
Richard Skiller 7.22.18