Thursday, November 05, 2009

Many densities, many foods

My favorite LA novel is The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle. Another great guide to today's LA is "The Scavenger: Pig's ear, octopus, and fish-kidney curry with LA's most adventurous eater" in the Nov 9 New Yorker.

The report follows the adventures of Jonathan Gold, "the high-low priest of the Los Angeles food scene." Gold describes LA as the "anti-melting pot". And "... unlike in New York, where immigrants quickly broaden and assimilate their cooking styles to reflect the city's collective idea of 'Chinese food,' the insular nature of Los Angeles allows imported regional cuisine to remain intact, traceable almost to the restaurant owners' villages of origin. 'The difference is that in New York they're cooking for us ... Here they're cooking for themselves' [Gold tells writer Dana Goodyear]."

Gold could have mentioned that LA also has plenty of the New York-style "they're cooking for us" options.

Urbanists keep writing about density, but neither explain what they mean or fall short with meanignless measures such as metro area or countywide density averages. The real fabric and the real nature is far too complex to capture with such vagaries. Interestingy, LA is melting pot and anti-melting pot. One can find the "cooking for us" dishes one day and the "cooking themselves" dishes the next. Whatever "the density" of LA is, it is, both "insular" and not-so-insular as to make both cuisines possible.

Perhaps urbanists can take the hint. Let a thousand densities bloom.