Joan Nathan is the author of ten cookbooks including her most recent, “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France” (Knopf), which was named one of the 10 best cookbooks of 2010 by NPR, Food and Wine, and Bon Appétit magazines.
She is a regular contributor to The New York Times,Food Arts Magazine, and Tablet Magazine, among other publications.
JoyFoodly: “Tell us about your first food memory. What do you remember about it?”
Joan: For my fourth birthday, my mother made me a chocolate cake. It was probably devil’s food with my favorite chocolate frosting, the kind that’s really rich and sweet and creamy. She served vanilla ice cream on the side and it was so exciting that all of that food was for me! She even let me cut the cake myself. With a butter knife, of course!
JoyFoodly: “What about food inspired you to make it your career?”
Joan: I am inspired by food’s power to bring people together. I first understood this when I was working for Teddy Kollek, the mayor of Jerusalem. We were visiting a Palestinian village and there was a great deal of tension in the air over a road that the villagers wanted built. Not to mention the political situation. In the middle of the negotiations, we sat down to break bread over musakhan, a chicken dish with sautéed onions, spices and pine nuts, still my favorite chicken dish in the world, and the tension melted away. The meal was delicious, we all left satisfied, and the village got its road.
JoyFoodly: “Imagine your best friend is coming to dinner tomorrow night. They are bringing their 9-year-old child with them. What would you want to cook for them?”
Joan: I try to throw as many vegetables into a dish as possible. They add beautiful color and texture on top of being so healthy. So I would probably make spaghetti with homemade pesto (I always keep a few batches in the freezer after my summer basil bounty) and toss in string beans, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes. Really, whatever I had on hand. My kids always loved that quick and easy dinner.
JoyFoodly highly recommends Joan’s most recent publication: “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France” (Knopf)
“When Joan Nathan decides to dig into Jewish heritage anywhere in the world, we readers should just fasten our seat belts and get ready for a glorious ride.”
— Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of The Splendid Table
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