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CITY OF GOLD is about the transformative power of food and food writing in how we experience where we live. Pulitzer Prize winning critic, Jonathan Gold, is our VIrgilian guide, casting his light upon a vibrant and growing cultural movement, a movement in which he plays the dual roles of high-low priest and culinary geographer of his beloved Los Angeles.
"A hundred different dishes can be good in a hundred different ways." Jonathan Gold
Although Los Angeles is many things to many people, most of us who know it more than in passing can agree its place for diverse ethnic food is about numero uno in the universe. It's the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow those of us who long for Korean one day and American the next, one day Thai the next Mexican, and so it goes. The true LA Gold is Jonathan Gold, the food critic who elevated mom and pop to king and queen. Who'd have thought the home of film glamour was also the home of casual, strip mall dining elevated to Oscar worthy.
The new documentary, City of Gold, follows Jonathan Gold around the city and its ethnic enclaves where he started his culinary journey to The LA Times. Did you ever stop at a Salvadoran stand on Pico Blvd. for a pupusas? Gold makes you wish you had. Are you aware that he made us aware of the greatness of Marisco Jalisco and Jitlada? Guelaguetza's barbacoa tacos live in glory because of Gold.
This robust raconteur can write about a taco as if it were a truffle. Not because he embellishes but because he gets to the heart of the experience of social sharing found in the food's tasty essence. Although he never fully explains why certain food is worthy of his exaltation, his Odyssey around town, punctuated by shots inside his car while he passes little restaurants and comments on their merits, or rarely the lack thereof, is more about ethnic diversity than tasty dining.
More often than not he is praising the food until you long for a moment of real truth that exposes it for the crap it might taste like. Perhaps he has reserved his negative criticism for passing comments about the effects of the infamous Watts riots. Maybe that's the point—this sunshiny critic saves his negativity for the one non-food disaster everyone can agree on. Only in that instance can you feel he is fully objective about this checkered city.
In the end, City of Gold is a paean to a melting-pot town of such food glamour that you forget the monumental traffic and epic social clashes. It is a rousing depiction of one critic's ability to bring a city together around one table. Robust and inclusive, Gold doesn't so much deconstruct food as he infuses it with energy:
"Taco should be a verb." Gold
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