If you ever need a reminder about the frailty of life, consider the following anecdote involving me and Tenny Tatusian, a beloved food writer and editor for the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register who passed away earlier this week at just 47.
A couple of months ago, Tatusian called me to ask me a question about something in her most recent role as a digital editor for the Times’ food section. I took the opportunity to tell her what I had expressed before via Twitter: that she was an amazing food writer, that it was a damn shame the Register pulled her off the hole-in-the-wall beat back in 2006—but that I was happy when it happened because that meant less competition for me. She laughed a wonderful laugh, thanked me for my kind words, then got to business: When the hell was Carnitas Los Reyes in Orange going to reopen?
The legendary spot had been closed for nearly a year at that point after an electrical fire, and Tatusian told me it had been one of her favorite OC lunches. I told her the delays had to do with the damned health department, but that I’d let her know the minute it was up and running anew, and maybe we could have lunch together so I could finally meet one of the most underrated food writers in Southern California?
She agreed. She never told me she was in the last stages of fighting melanoma. So it came as a shock on Tuesday, when I read the Times‘ obituary of their colleague. What particularly stung was that Los Reyes had just reopened a couple of weeks ago, I had gone this past weekend, and I found the Times‘s writeup after Googling Tatusian’s name to see what her email was so I could set up our lunch date.
My thoughts and prayers to Tatusian’s friends, family, and colleagues. I only knew her from her much-missed weekly column at the Register, a couple of Twitter interactions, and that one phone call, but I got immediately what a wonderful person she was. It’s a shame she couldn’t go to Los Reyes one final time, and my review next week will be dedicated to her.
There will be a memorial service for her this Monday at Westminster Memorial Ceremony, with a lunch to follow at Golden Nights in Buena Park, of which Tatusian wrote in a 2006 Register review that its “Lebanese sausage, half the length of your pinky, fried and topped with olive oil and tomato, is all that sausage could be, and the hummus and its eggplant-based cousin baba ganoush are both creamy and relevant.”