I don’t consider myself a foodie. My palate isn’t nearly broad enough to be one; I’ll try anything once, from balut to cacahuetes, but I still find myself ordering the same Spicy Eggplant Lunch Special again and again for years. (Yes, I still listen to Pavement, too.) But what appeals to me about reading Jonathan Gold’s articles is the sense that these foods this man seems to find occupy some kind of otherwordly Platonic ideal, and the dish itself, for someone like me, is always going to disappoint. Of course it is. I know that going in — but in the way that some people fantasize over romance novels without necessarily identifying with the virginal maiden, I’ll swoon over an unusually potent Twitter update from THEJGOLD about a scarlet payload of ground chiles collecting at the tip of a mango popsicle, all while knowing that there is, for me, no flavor-experience as potent as the image itself. My copy of “Counter Intelligence” isn’t so much a guidebook as it is a book of sonnets — albeit creepy ones, to sausages. And when I attended the 2nd annual Gold Standard tasting event last month, my head buzzing with thoughts of texture and spice delivered from God, this became clearer to me than ever: ricotta cheese fresh enough to rip your face off (whatever that might mean) is still ricotta cheese. Virtually everything I tasted was delicious and fresh and fabulous and painfully real: to my tongue and my mind, unfortunately, ideas are delicious — but real food, real life? Meh.
Anyway, just a few days after Gold Standard, my boyfriend Matt and I were invited to our fancy author acquaintance Mark Z. Danielewski’s birthday, which was held at the high-falutin’ $$$ bar-restaurant Lucques. We’re non-drivers, and the trip from Pasadena to West Hollywood took two buses. I was anxiety-attack-level terrified — this was perhaps my first time sitting at the kind of bar that did not have a bowl of tortilla chips on it; I’m not even comfortable using cloth napkins. I was already hesitant and literally sweating, and soon as we approached the restaurant, I spotted a familiar silhouette: a blond, mustachioed Hitchcock through the window. Mr. Gold was afoot! This was beside the fact that the other thirty or so strangers at this gathering were all Very Important: Bret Easton Ellis (briefly introduced to my boyfriend but not to me!), Danny Elfman and Bridget Fonda (extremely awkward conversation about my pomeranian!), and everyone else was a “Mad Men” production-manager or God-knows-what. Within fifteen minutes of arriving, a random drunk lady asked if I knew anyone there. I motioned at Jonathan Gold and said that, well, I knew who he was. The next thing I know, she pulls a sudden “You’re from Pasadena? He’s from Pasadena!” introduction — and I was whisked into forced conversation with the man himself. I stammered about how I used to have a poster of him in my room from when he won the Pulitzer (stolen out of the LA Weekly rack display), and I Am Not A Foodie But…, and something something Ludobites chorizo milkshake, and I ran away, mortified, and had a kumquat drink in the far corner of the room. It was a blur, and he was soft-spoken, quiet, and patient. Mostly patient.
As the rest of the night wore on — me keeping my distance from Mr. Gold — I couldn’t help but think of why I felt the need to stress that whole “I am not a foodie” shpiel. Why was I proud of this? Did I think this was important? Did I really think it seemed more notable or flattering or “pure” that I was a fan of his prose in some kind of self-contained way? I quickly came to realize two things. One: I should be honest, but I don’t need to try to flatter a Pulitzer Prize winner; and Two: Duh. He knows this. Jonathan Gold f-ing knows that he’s a writer’s writer, an ex-copy-editor, ex-music-reviewer, luscious-textual-fantasy-crossover-superstar. He gets it. That’s why he does what he does how he does it. And I don’t need to love pork belly to get it. And maybe it’s more interesting if I don’t.
Later, at the end of the night, I mentioned to Mark the important birthday man that we were planning on taking the bus home to Pasadena. I have no idea why this surprised me, but he said, “Pasadena? Oooh, WAIT!” — and, as I chased him down, howling “NOOOOOOOO,” he ran outside precisely in time to catch Jonathan Gold and his amazing [former longtime LA Weekly editor-in-chief] wife Laurie Ochoa getting their car from the valet. And he insisted that they take us home. I didn’t even catch their reaction, but the next think I know, Mr. Gold opens the door to their little white car and says, very calmly, “Hop in.” And and and and, again, a blur! I could only reel at the thought of what series of events could have possibly led to this situation, me and my boyfriend sitting in the back of the Gold-Ochoa-mobile. I asked why they chose to live in Pasadena, expecting a very dramatic explanation about its proximity to the most authentic noodle huts of the San Gabriel Valley, but the answer was a lot more practical: They got a good deal on a house. Mr. Gold recommended plenty of nice, scenic Pasadena locations to check out — strange mortuaries, gardens, statues, historic estates, exactly zero restaurants — and his lovely and insanely nice wife kept politely laughing at my obviously terror-filled attempts at jokes, and the conversation was awkward, and the silence was awkward, and the car was very, very clean. I kept talking and talking the entire time and I may have said some weird shit (“That giant fake Oscar statue is totally wrapped in a condom!” “The city of Alhambra is ashamed of its Chinese residents!”, etc., for 20 minutes), and Matt kept trying to steer the conversation to food, and I embarrassed myself more than I ever thought possible, and it was totally awesome.