Paula photo
Photo by Quentin Bacon. 

Dear Paula:

A few months ago, Food & Wine did a fantastic story on you. It was written by the super talented Emily Kaiser (who is a close friend of mine). I think I read that story ten times and then placed the magazine on my work table (ie my couch). It was the first time in my short, new food writing career, that I wished I had written the story. There is no way I could have done the terrific job that Emily did, she is an amazing talent. My wish was more about being with you. I wished I could have travelled with you to Marrakech. I wish I could have seen what you saw. I wish I could have breathed the same air. I wish I could have watched as you got your recipes by hugging and kissing (as you say). 

You are one of a kind, Paula. You probably dont remember, the good-doers often forget, how much you helped me when I started writing about food. You would read my ramblings on eGullet (close to six years ago) and write and tell me that I had a shot at becoming a writer. I knew you were Paula Wolfert, the cookbook author. But I did not know, until much later, that you were Paula Wolfert, the legend. 

I still remember the day you came to DC and asked me to be your date at an event at Zaytinya where you were signing books and hosting a dinner. I recall how people in the room approached you and talked to you about how your recipes had changed their life, they talked about how the made certain dishes and how the tastes reminded them of their travels. You listened, offered advice, and remained, as you always have: elegant and gracious. 

I will never forget how you pulled me to the side, as I simply took in the moment and felt (at times), like a deer in headlights. You pulled me aside and whispered in my ear "I spoke to the Executive Editor at MAJOR FOOD MAGAZINE about your amazing writing. You must pitch them. They should have your work in the magazine." Paula, thanks to your kindness and graciousness, they were so open to speaking with me. They listened to my pitches and then assigned me  a major story. And I landed the first travel story of my new career. I have thanked you many times but perhaps it is more that I dont know how to thank you enough. It changed my life. 

I made a vow the day when my travel story appeared in MAJOR magazine: I promised to pay it forward and help as many aspiring and deserving writers' as I could. Paula – I think you would be proud. I am happy to say that I have kept my vow. 

You are an inspiration, a shining example of how to do it right, and one of the classiest people I know.

Paula – I wish you a terrific 2011 and wanted to tell you once again: Thanks for all you do and I love you very much. 


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  1. What a wonderful post to honor the one and only Paula Wolfert. She is amazing. I missed the magazine story about her but can only imagine it was inspirational.


  2. Paula is a wonderful person and inspiration. This is a lovely heartfelt tribute.

  3. A very touching letter to an inspirational woman…. sniff…

  4. You are both inspirational writers who take us along for the journey with your words. What a gift! I have stories that both of you have scribed so etched in my mind that I have to remind myself I was not actually there! Happy New Year!

  5. I had the incredible good fortune to meet and dine with Paula and a group from Mouthfuls at The General’s Daughter (now gone, sadly) a couple of years ago. She is just as nice and generous as she is talented. I hope our paths cross again sometime soon.

  6. I am Paula’s daughter, Leila, and I am incredibly touched by this emotional and valiant letter about my great mother! As a mom, she is the most loving and generous person a child would want. She spoiled me silly as a kid, I insisted on having pasta everyday as a side dish and there was never any argument. I got what I wanted. As I grew older, Paula steadily was loving, a great listener, full of wisdom, and always let me cuddle with her, hold hands or just be arm and arm. There was always warm, loving physical communication between us. I am incredibly proud of Paula and what she’s achieved. But more importantly, I deeply love her like most daughters love their moms. And when we have long conversations where we both talk and listen, and she shares her great wisdom, those are the times that I treasure the most. Well, I can’t forget the times when she cooks splendid, beyond delicious lunches, dinners, snacks, and breakfasts. I can cook too, and my friends always like to say “you ARE your mother’s daughter”. And, I am beaming for myself at this point.

  7. monica, this a lovely note and obviously well deserved. Paula has been an inspiration to many and no doubt will continue to be for a long time to come. It’s always great to see what new things she’s working on, and i i look forward to seeing what she brings forth in the coming years! Many kudos to you both for being so inspirational!

  8. Ms. Bhide,
    Your note is a tribute to a great writer and person. Thank you for expressing something that needed to be said again. Ms Wolfert has been a similar influence to us as potters, leading us into the world of Moroccan and Mediterranean pottery and into a whole new world of flameware for stovetop cooking with clay pots.
    She, as you said, is the very best and way too humble.

  9. How wonderful to take the time to publicly thank someone who have given you so much and been such an influence on you. Sometimes in our busy, hectic lives we don’t always take the time to say, “Thank you, you made a difference in my life.” The recipient of such thank yous experiences joy beyond measure. The person thanked is not looking for thank yous, but the fact that you’ve not only benefitted from Paula Wolfert’s generosity, but are paying it forward is probably the ultimate sign of appreciation and a gift to her in return.

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