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A Culinary Legend’s Next Fight

Emily Kaiser Thelin | Longreads | March 23, 2017 | 2,256 words
Posted inBooks, Nonfiction, Story

A Culinary Legend’s Next Fight

Paula Wolfert’s groundbreaking cookbooks changed the way we eat. An Alzheimer’s diagnosis changed her life, but not her outlook.
Paula Wolfert
Paula Wolfert in 1978.

Emily Kaiser Thelin | Longreads | March 2017 | 9 minutes (2,256 words)

The following is a Longreads exclusive excerpt from Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life, the new book by author Emily Kaiser Thelin about the extraordinary life of culinary legend Paula Wolfert, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. Our thanks to Thelin for sharing this story with the Longreads community.


In an impossibly narrow lane in the crowded ancient medina of Marrakech, a motor scooter zipped past, a horned ram bleating between the driver’s legs, bound for sacrifice for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. I jumped to get out of the way and promptly collided with a family headed home for the holiday, a small lamb chewing on weeds while straddling the shoulders of the man. I cinched my coat tighter against the wet, cold December day and pushed on against the crowds.

It was December 2008. I had come to Morocco on an assignment for Food & Wine to profile legendary cookbook author Paula Wolfert, a longtime contributor to the magazine whom I had edited as a staffer there since 2006. This was the culinary equivalent of a journey through the Arabian dunes with T. E. Lawrence or a trip to Kitty Hawk with the Wright Brothers—the chance to tour the place where a titan of my field first made her name. She and I had met in person only twice before, once at a food conference and then for lunch at her house in Sonoma. She had returned to Morocco because her publisher, HarperCollins, had suggested she update her first book, the 1973 landmark Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco.

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