Jonathan Gold found his imitable voice at L.A. Weekly. The much-admired food critic and cultural icon, who died of pancreatic cancer on July 21, proclaimed this in a piece celebrating the paper's 30th anniversary in 2008 (this December marks our 40th anniversary). He also said he found his politics at this publication, "the result of concussions sustained while butting heads with the editor, Jay Levin."
In the piece, titled "Between the Lines," Gold shared that he learned about "love and loss and betrayal and loyalty" at the Weekly, which was obviously as formative as what he came to know about constructing paragraphs, comma placement, and the power of words to convey mood, atmosphere and flavor.
Though he eventually took his masterful food coverage to the Los Angeles Times, the L.A. Weekly was his home and that of his beloved wife, editor-in-chief Laurie Ochoa, during a prolific and game-changing period, for the writer and for this publication itself. At the Weekly, he became the first Pulitzer Prize–winning food critic ever in 2007, and he pushed his already deep and beautiful writing to extraordinary heights, injecting history and culture into his reportage, giving his vibrant words context, and making us look at eating as an art form.
Gold's piece chronicling a year devouring the many flavors available on one Los Angeles street, Pico Boulevard, is probably his most cited work, so much so that those not familiar with it might expect it to be an epic think piece of great length. It's relatively short for such a robust report, and it represents the writer's soulful gift for saying a lot with a little. (Gold's N.W.A cover feature is a lengthier example of his brilliance.)
"The Year I Ate Pico Blvd." still reads like poetry, very personal poetry from someone who loved his surroundings so much that he actually became absorbed by them. Gold was great at conveying the unique details and creativity that goes into making the finest cuisine. But it was his gift for helping us to appreciate the full cultural breadth of cooking and consuming in the city — from ingredients and preparations to innovations and traditions — that set him apart from everyone else attempting to write about food, and about L.A. in general.
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With his public memorial taking place in downtown this weekend, L.A. Weekly joins all of Los Angeles in honoring the one and only Jonathan Gold, by sharing some of his words (reprinted here with his family's blessing) as well as sharing reflections by, and conversations with, writers he greatly influenced.
The Community Tribute to Jonathan Gold will take place on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., downtown, on Sunday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. It will be hosted by L.A. Times staff writer Carolina Miranda, and will include tributes from Mark Gold, Jonathan's brother and UCLA associate vice chancellor for environment and sustainability; Evan Kleiman of KCRW's Good Food; Laura Gabbert, producer-director of the documentary City of Gold; L.A. City Councilmember José Huizar; Providence's Michael Cimarusti; Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza; Sang Yoon of Lukshon and Father's Office; and composer Carl Stone. KCRW's Anthony Valadez will DJ, and there will be a picnic with food trucks, followed by speakers and then a screening of favorite and never-before-seen moments from City of Gold. Members of the community are encouraged to share their own tributes using #LAGold.