Paula Wolfert's working on a new cookbook -- and you can help

Russ Parsons
The California Cook
Paula Wolfert and friends cook up a book of recipes and memories via Kickstarter

Look on any serious cook’s bookshelf and you’re almost guaranteed to find at least one of Paula Wolfert’s cookbooks. But it’s the one yet to be written that may be the most intriguing — and you can help get it published.

The 77-year-old Wolfert is the author of nine cookbooks, including groundbreaking works on the Middle East and southwest France. Her books “Couscous and Other Good Foods from Morocco” and “The Cooking of Southwest France” are regarded as classics.

Now a group of Wolfert's fans and friends is putting together a cookbook commemorating her life and memories in food, and they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to get it going.

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It’s the memories part that is especially poignant, because Wolfert was diagnosed several years ago with a variant of Alzheimer’s Syndrome. Since then, she’s embarked on what could be considered almost a second career, helping to boost awareness of the disease and raise funds for Alzheimer’s research.

“I’m helping people, it’s always been like this,” she said in a phone interview from her Sonoma home.

“This isn’t going to help me get cured, because there’s not going to be a cure for my age group. But if it gets people excited about it, maybe they’ll be aware and maybe we can get something done about this.”

More to the point personally, she said, the project -- with the working title "Unforgettable: Bold Flavors From a Renegade Life" -- gives her something to get involved in.

“They keep telling me to get involved in something; they keep saying learn to play bridge, learn dancing,” she said with a “can you believe that?” tone of voice. “Well, that’s not me. I have to be involved with things that I’m actually interested in. And this gives me something that I can stay active with that I love to do. Instead of playing bridge.”

Emily Kaiser Thelin, a former food editor at Food & Wine magazine, is spearheading the project, along with photographer Eric Wolfinger and designer Toni Tajima (they also worked on the fabulous “Manresa” cookbook) with advice from Bay Area cookbook author Andrea Nguyen.

The money raised will underwrite the cost of production for a limited run of 1,500 copies. Those pledging $30 will get a copy of the book. Pledges at other levels can yield a T-shirt or an apron reading “Keep Calm and Follow the Recipe,” which maybe should be Wolfert’s motto.

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