Women We Admire: Joan Nathan

Women We Admire By Julia Burgi

Joan Nathan is an incredible woman who has managed to fit two lives into one - the first dedicated to public service and the second to Jewish cuisine. A prodigious food writer, Nathan specializes in cuisine that spans the Jewish ethnic tradition, ranging from Americanized specialties to Israeli ones. Her impressive repertoire includes 10 cookbooks, regular contribution to The New York Times Food Arts Magazine and Tablet Magazine, and PBS series called Jewish Cooking in America with Joan Nathan.

Originally from Providence, Rhode Island, Joan studied French Literature at the undergraduate level before getting a masters in Public Administration from Harvard. She lived in Israel for three years working for the mayor of Jerusalem in the 1970s. While working for the New York City administration, she was a co-founder of the Ninth Street Food Festival, which is about to celebrate its 38th year!

Joan started to share her passion for Jewish food with the publication of The Flavor of Jerusalem in 1975 and has continued to do so, with her most recent publication being Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France in 2010.

Joan now lives in Washington DC and Martha's Vineyard with her husband and three children. She has hardly slowed down - and for that we're quite grateful! In an April 13th article from the New York Times she recognized restaurants that provide Seder meals, a tradition of Passover, a holiday that celebrates the Exodus of the Jewish slaves from Egypt.

As Joan explains, there are a host of reasons that people chose not to have Seder meals at home: there are too many relatives to cook for and there isn't enough room, the former host of the meals may have passed away, or some people aren't practicing Jews but crave a connection to their ancestors and ethnic traditions. The Seder meals that are offered around the country are all different - some are more religiously focused while other's aren't even Kosher. Many restaurants offer non-tradition spins on Jewish specialties, such as matzo and briskets.

Joan has been awarded numerous honors from the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She is truly a woman to admire!