Jonathan Gold passed away last week. For those of you who don't live in Los Angeles or who don't consider yourself a "foodie," you may not have heard of him. He's the only writer to win a Pulitzer Prize for food writing. He wrote for the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly and appeared regularly on KCRW's Good Food show. He was a lover of Los Angeles and an equalizer of humanity.
Yes, this is the second time I'm writing a tribute to a food writer. However, it's not because they were food writers. To me, they were both journalists who allowed food to be the cultural ambassadors into our lives. And man, could they both write! Here's how Gold wrote about Mexican mole...
...So dark that it seems to suck the light out of the airspace around it, spicy as a novela and bitter as tears, a mole whose aftertaste can go on for hours. La Tía’s mole negro appears so glossy and rich that I am always tempted to test its consistency by stabbing an index finger into it, and the resulting stain lingers as long as the empurpled digits of patriotic Iraqi voters. The last time I was as inspired by glossy black, it was part of Charles Ray’s infamous sculpture Ink Box, and it was enshrined in a major museum of art. -From 2009’s “Moles La Tia: Beyond the Magnificent Seven,” in LA Weekly
Most food writers generally review the most high end restaurants in a city. Gold was one of the first to explore restaurants in ethnic neighborhoods, where he said (and I'm paraphrasing) the food had to be so good and so authentic because it catered to that community's palate and not to a more western or "American" one. I watched the documentary, City of Gold, over the weekend, and I cried over scenes of immigrants who opened small restaurants with tastes of their homeland and who were rewarded for their hard work and talents, when Gold, literally, changed their lives with one of his powerful reviews. With their successes, they were able to pay for their children to go to medical school and to feel a sense of pride in their achievement of the American Dream.
In this day and age, with Yelp, and other online reviews, we all have the power to transform businesses. Good reviews are one thing, but I believe what's even more powerful, is using our money towards what we value the most. Spend your money at restaurants you LOVE who are giving you GREAT service, delicious food and an experience, like no other. In the same way, invest in companies that match those values, like a certain "social impact" fund I admire that challenges the companies they invest in to document and improve on the lives of people and the environment. I mean what mutual fund End of Year Report starts with a quote like this...
Thousands of starfish washed ashore. A little girl began throwing them in the water so they wouldn't die. "Don't bother, dear," her mother said, "it won't make a difference." The girl stopped for a moment and looked at the starfish in her hand. "It will make a difference to this one."
Small businesses make up the tapestry of the American Dream and probably in many parts of the world. By supporting the local mom and pop stores, farms, and restaurants, you and I have the power to make a difference and give rise to someone's dream, like alchemists, who have the power to transform metal into gold or change anything in a mysterious or impressive way. Paulo Coelho's extraordinary book, The Alchemist, sums up this magical conspiracy:
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Jonathan Gold was only one person but he made an extraordinary impact to hundreds, if not thousands of restaurant owners, when he took the opportunity to really get to know this city and its deep pockets of restaurants born from immigrant experiences. Gold explored every Korean joint in this city filled with Korean joints. Even David Chang (chef-owner of Momofuku and host during the Olympics held in Seoul) believes Gold knew more about Korean food than most Koreans. He's most likely tried every Sichuan, Chengdu, or Taiwanese style restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley, and by eating, experiencing, and writing about restaurants that were more off the beaten path, he started a food revolution and made a difference in the lives of immigrants who most likely didn't speak the language well but like your family and mine, just wanted a way to make a better life for themselves and their families.
Are you an alchemist? How can you use your money this week for "good" or to support someone else's dreams? Subscribe and comment below. If you want to support my dreams to help you find financial freedom or manifest what you want, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or go here to sign up to for your free financial assessment.
With so much love and gratitude,