This is the second edition of Unforgettable, released by Grand Central Life & Style.
Subtitled “The bold flavors of Paula Wolfert’s renegade life,” this biography-with-recipes traces the remarkable life of Wolfert, a near-legendary intrepid culinary explorer and author of nine cookbooks with a focus on North Africa, France, and the Mediterranean.
Now in her seventies, Wolfert is facing dementia. With her cooperation, food journalist Emily Thelin has composed this moving story of Wolfert’s life, filling it out with recipes from her culinary archives and published works, moving from her childhood in Flatbush, Brooklyn, through her young married years in New York hanging out with and feeding members of the Beat movement, through her first visit to Morocco, the inspiration for her landmark first book, Couscous and other Good Food from Morocco.
From there, Wolfert’s story only grows richer. Friendships or working relationships with culinary lights such as James Beard and Diana Kennedy, Andre Daguin and Alice Waters followed. In many ways hers is the story of America’s growing awareness of Mediterranean food, though Wolfert, with her emphasis on traditional techniques and foodways, was never the popularizer who managed to exploit all the opportunities. She was always more likely to wonder what was being eaten in a remote valley than to sing the praises of a resort chef or slap her name on a line of olive oil.
Unforgettable does a remarkable job of enticing us to cook as Wolfert has cooked, with a sense of adventure and a desire to understand where a dish comes from and why it is made the way it is made. In its frankness about Wolfert’s condition, it is refreshing and inspiring, as well as a wonderful tribute to a pioneer.