Monday, May 14, 2012

Gold and the Doughnut Factory

You really don't need me to point out what a talented writer Jonathan Gold is--the Pulitzer committee has already done that for you. His appetite seems voracious; his desire to share infectious; his ability to be pals-y without being pushy helps create an "us" of folks serious about food high and low--the only necessary commonality is for everything to be delicious.

As, for instance, in the closing of his LA Times article on Saturday about Umamicatessen, a new downtown spot that features several different vendors in one space, not the least of which is the twee-ly named "& a [drawing of a donut]." The review's finish goes like this:

You should try the foie gras* doughnut at least once: round, hot and crisp, dusted with ground peanuts. One end leaks jam — "forest berry"' from the cult jelly man Robert Lambert in the Bay Area, which tastes like what the Wine Spectator means when they describe the jammy notes in a $150 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon — and the other a loose, mild foie gras mousse.

A cynical man might insist that the foie gras was put into the doughnut mostly to justify the cost of the jam: Nobody is going to pay $8 for a jelly doughnut, no matter how life-changing. But there is that sweet spot in the middle of the doughnut where foie meets jam, the peanut dust comes into play and you are essentially dealing with the most luxurious peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the world. It is an extraordinarily good bite. Then you're left with the rest of what is merely an extremely good doughnut, but somehow that's OK too.

There is a bemusement that's utterly delightful in these two paragraphs, a sense Gold is both in on a joke but willing to laugh at himself, too. (He's anything but pretentious, even if it often seems he's not just tasted but studied the peasant cuisines of countries that haven't even been founded yet, not to mention all those of countries forgotten, too.) He is both that cynical man (a useful trait for a critic) and one who is ever on the search for enjoyment (the most important trait for a critic). His sentences are wonderfully rhythmic--voiced, which is no surprise if you've heard him on KCRW with Evan Kleiman--and note how the short sentence in paragraph two gets to deliver the punchline, punchy as it is. But think of all the other things he does for you here--makes Wine Spectator-speak make sense, helps you taste a $150 cab for a mere $8, gives you an excuse to purchase a doughnut for $8 (remember when you used to get a cocktail for that much?), leaves you wanting that extraordinarily good bite, teaches you to bite petitely and taste slowly, even makes you pleased with an OK world that's not just filled with extraordinary, if fleeting and rare, mouthfuls of doughnut. That's probably most of our lives.

I have a sneaking suspicion it's not Jonathan Gold's, though.

*And I'll be getting back to the foie gras issue and the ban soon on this blog, as long as I don't choke on the foie, as one commenter to Gold's article, who clearly loves all living things, suggested.

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