Joan Nathan

b. 1943

Described as the woman “who connects Jewish cooking the world over,” award-winning journalist and cookbook author Joan Nathan has been a transformative figure in documenting and exploring the evolving Jewish experience, in America and around the globe, through the powerful lens of food. With a compassionate ear for family and community narratives, her recognition of the communicative power of the table, and her savvy and skill as a veteran investigative reporter, Nathan has brought a deep understanding of Judaism and Jewish culture to a massive readership at the intersection of flavor, religion, and history. Nathan is a long-standing contributing writer to The New York Times and Tablet Magazine and is the author of eleven books, as well as hundreds of articles, podcasts, interviews, and public presentations about Jewish, global, and American foodways.

Scope and Content Note

Joan Nathan is the author of numerous cookbooks, each of which focuses on an aspect of Jewish life and culture. What makes her books unique is that each recipe comes with a story, enabling the reader to learn about much more than how to prepare a dish, but where the dish originated, how Jewish migration and living in different lands have changed the dish, and its meaning to the family from which it came. Thus, Joan is not only a cookbook author, but a cultural historian and food writer as well. Her books educate about Jewish life, tradition, and Jewish history.

Joan’s first book was The Flavor of Jerusalem, written in 1975 when she worked for the mayor of Jerusalem. In her interview, she talks about how her career has evolved since then. She tells how the recipes and stories come together, and how people sharing recipes in their kitchens often reveal much about their own lives in the process. 

Joan reflects on the significance of food to Jewish life—as she notes, Judaism is a “table-centered culture”.  And, she reminds the next generation of the importance of creating tradition through meals. 



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How to cite this page

Oral History of Joan Nathan. Interviewed by Deborah Ross. 12 July 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 26, 2024) <>.

Oral History of Joan Nathan by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at