Paula Wolfert on the Food Memory Frontier

Food & Wine: Paula Wolfert in Action.
Paula Wolfert in Action. Courtesy of Paula Wolfert
By Emily Kaiser Thelin Posted November 08, 2013

With all this talk of food dudes, it’s worth noting that few people alive today, male or female, have done more for the American palate than the cookbook author Paula Wolfert, who has written for this magazine since its founding in 1978. She’s best known for introducing the cuisines of Morocco and Gascony (in southwestern France) to the American mainstream. Less well-known, she was also a foraging pioneer. Back in the 1990s, when Réne Redzepi was just starting his career, Wolfert began researching her cookbook Mediterranean Grains and Greens, which cataloged dozens of wild edibles when it was published in 1998. (A typical entry in the book’s extensive appendix: “Butcher’s Beard (Borago offiinalis) The young shoots are tart and bitter, but when cooked they develop a bluish purple color and a well-balanced flavor. Used in risottos and frittatas.”)

In September, when Wolfert announced her diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s on her Facebook page, the food twitterati reacted with shock and concern. The Washington Post asked me to check on how she was coping. (I was lucky to be Wolfert’s editor at F&W for four years, and to travel with her to Marrakech.) I’m glad to report she’s doing inspiringly well. Below, you’ll find links to the story, to her new advocacy work with the Alzheimer’s Association (plus YouTube videos!) and her recipe for her memory-preserving superfoods smoothie—made with a mix of her favorite greens.

• A Day in the Life: To cope with her diagnosis, Wolfert has turned to cooking some of her favorite recipes, including a scallops dish she learned from a Gascon chef in 1978 while on commission to write a story on the foods of the region for F&W. Be sure to click through the stunning slideshow by gifted photographer Eric Wolfinger.

• Alzheimer’s Activist: A lifelong teacher, since her diagnosis she’s now working with the Alzheimer’s Association to raise awareness about memory loss.

• YouTube: Through her local chapter of the association, Wolfert has begun recording a series of lively videos about her experiences with the disease, to help fight the stigma.

• Superfoods: Another way she’s turned to food to cope: Wolfert’s been combing the Internet for the best superfoods to feed the mind. She starts every day with this jam-packed smoothie. As Wolfert described it to her doctor, when she wrote to confirm that all of it was safe to drink, “Keep in mind this is for a warrior, not for a gourmet.”

Paula Wolfert’s Superfood Smoothie
>Makes about 3 1/2 cups, or one generous serving

About 1 1/2 cups stemmed and coarsely chopped leafy greens, such as kale, chard, arugula or dandelion
1/2 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries
1/4 Hass avocado
2 to 4 tablespoons protein powder, such as Garden of Life
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons almond butter, or 6 Brazil nuts or 1/4 cup walnuts or chopped almonds
1 tablespoon chia or flaxseeds, or 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 to 2 teaspoons powdered raw cacao powder
One 1,000 mg tablet of curcumin with bioperine, such as Doctor’s Best
1/2 to 1 teaspoon spirulina powder, such as Nutrex
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of cayenne
About 2 cups almond milk, coconut water or goat’s milk kefir

Combine all ingredients in a Vitamix or blender and puree until smooth.

Transfer to a large glass and serve.

Related: Fantastic Recipes from Paula Wolfert
Delicious Breakfast Drinks
Incredible Gifts for a Cause

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