The celebrated cookbook author and Moroccan expert Paula Wolfert was in town last week and we had a quick breakfast at the Four Seasons.
Wolfert's new "The Food of Morocco," a book she wrote more than 35 years ago and has updated, along with stunning photographs, just came out.
She is much thinner than the last time I saw her, at her home in Sonoma, Calif., when she was working on "Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking," and the kitchen counters were filled with all kinds of clay pots. I was quite interested since I'd just smashed two Chinese clay pots, the ones with the wire mesh on the outside.
Anyway, three years ago, Wolfert and her husband, crime fiction writer Bill Bayer, decided to go on a diet and Wolfert is down three sizes after losing 40 pounds.
Here's how her day goes: For breakfast, she has black coffee, and a slice of toast with chopped tomatoes drizzled with (I watched her, make that drenched in) olive oil and sprinkled with Malden sea salt. Lunch is meat or fish, often the results of a recipe test. "We're not vegans because Bill can't live without meat," she says. "But if you don't eat the sweets in Moroccan cooking, you're fine."
For dinner, she drinks a glass or two of wine with some Comte cheese or trail mix.
Wolfert has returned to Morocco many times since she first went as a hippie in the 70s. "My last book was about the past," she says. "Now they have their own Julia Child and 80 percent of the population moved to the cities. Tagines have replaced couscous, which they make only on Fridays."
Wolfert, 73, says she never believed that there was "a son of Couscous," referring to "Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco," her original cookbook. Today, she oversees a group site on Facebook called Moroccan Cooking, which has 2,500 participants from around the world. "I'm the goddess on the site," says Wolfert. She doesn't make any money, she says. Her readers are "all these girls married to Moroccans, and all these girls who moved to the cities. Everyone says I have the most interesting group on the Internet. It's the most active group I've ever seen."
If you join, you'll find out where to buy confit of beef, a dish Moroccans add to lots of other dishes. Someone is making and selling it to all the desperate cooks away from home.
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ContributorsSheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.
Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.
Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.