Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mediterranean Feast for Paula to Raise Alzheimer's Awareness & Funds

When my smart and funny and oh so talented friend Paula Wolfert disclosed last year that she'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, the food world was stunned and desolate. That lasted all of a moment or two--because Paula dismissed the grief and took charge in her usual way. Instead of wallowing and retreating, she stepped up to become an activist for awareness and research.

Back in November, she appeared on the PBS's NewsHour with interviewer Judy Woodruff. What she said bowled me over:

"My head is with my children, my husband, my friends, and sharing with the Alzheimer’s Association whatever I can share, because this is the most important thing I want to say. The shame that people have about their memory loss is — and the denial that exists and their friends saying, oh, everybody has — you know, it’s senior moments, forget it.

"And by the time they finally become like the old ladies or old men become, it’s too far. You can’t help — those people can’t be helped. It’s too late. It’s too late. We have to come out the way people with HIV came out, the way people with cancer came out. We’re not going to get enough money from the government or from anybody else unless we stand there and say, hey, I’m not an old zombie. I’m me, and I need help, and all the people around me who are suffering the way I am, we need help.

"But we have to come out and say it. We’re worried. We need to do something."
Food writer and friend Amy Sherman and I visited with Paula at her Sonoma home several years ago. Oh, the feast she made us and her husband Bill Bayer!

Indeed. And this cause has become that much closer to my heart because just a couple of months ago my dad also was diagnosed. I've relished how quickly he has improved thanks to drugs, but we don't know how long that will last. Thankfully, we have the close support of the San Diego chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, along with family and friends. That is huge for him and for those of us caring for him.

This Sunday, Mediterranean Feast for Paula, a grassroots fundraising and outreach campaign organized by chefs Farid Zadi and Susan Park, with the support of Paula and the Alzheimer's Association California Southland Chapter is being held at the Daily Dose in downtown L.A. from noon to 4 p.m.

Of course, a Mediterranean food fest is only appropriate to honor Paula, the author of eight cookbooks--five of which are on Mediterranean cuisine. The event is set to be the largest Mediterranean food event to hit L.A., with participating chefs including Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger, Farid Zadi, Nancy Silverton, Robbie Richter, Josiah Citron, Kris Yenbarmroon, Matt Molina, and others. Amy Scattergood and Evan Kleiman are the keynote speakers.

There will, of course, be tastings (think rabbit with preserved pears and ginger, duck with green olives and herbes de provence, berber skillet bread and sauteed kale with garlicky white beans, a whole lamb roast, porchetta, paella, bouillabaisse, briks, bisteeya, and so much more). There will also be a talk by Paula, and a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the Alzheimer's Association.

All this for a general admission ticket price of $75. VIP admission of $125 includes free valet parking, a goodie bag filled with spices and ancient grains, and table service with wait staff.

For tickets and more information, visit the event site.

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