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.