Joan Nathan has a new cook­book com­ing out this week! With the release of King Solomon’s Table: A Culi­nary Explo­ration of Jew­ish Cook­ing around the World, Joan is guest blog­ging for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil all week as part of the Vis­it­ing Scribe series here on The ProsenPeo­ple.

One of the ques­tions I am fre­quent­ly asked by friends is how I find the cooks and sto­ries that accom­pa­ny the recipes in my books. For me, it is always one of the great­est chal­lenges and most enjoy­able tasks of cook­book writing.

It used to be that when I start­ed writ­ing a cook­book, an under­tak­ing I some­times liken to writ­ing a long term paper or a Mas­ters or Doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion, I would send out let­ters to the edi­tors of the Jew­ish Press around the coun­try and ask their read­ers for their thoughts, mem­o­ries, and sto­ries. Today you don’t have to do that: in the world of the Inter­net, I could ask for like­ly sto­ries from the Jew­ish group on Face­book that I start­ed or send out a tweet search­ing for inter­est­ing recipes.

But I do not.

Instead, I still do it the old-fash­ioned way and go per­son to per­son. This is how I wrote my lat­est cook­book, King Solomon’s Table: A Culi­nary Explo­ration of Jew­ish Cook­ing around the World, due out April 4th from Alfred A. Knopf.

First of all, I live in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. a mul­ti­cul­tur­al city filled with peo­ple who have come from all over the coun­try and the world. When I meet some­one and tell them what I do — great din­ner par­ty con­ver­sa­tion — or what my lat­est project is, invari­ably, they come up with like­ly candidates.

I have been known to hail a cab only to ask the dri­ver to find me a good Indi­an cook in Edi­son, New Jer­sey. (I hopped in the cab and had my friends fol­low me in my own car.) Anoth­er time two of us were in a taxi in Paris on our way to a kosher restau­rant. When I dis­cov­ered the cab­by was a French Jew, I asked him if I could come to his home for Fri­day night din­ner. He said yes but his wife, won­der­ing who in the world I was, said no.

Some­times I am just lucky. A few years ago when I was speak­ing for a Hadas­sah group in New­port, Rhode Island, a lady came up to me and asked if I would like some recipes from Jews who lived in Siberia. Would I ever! She then told me her family’s wan­der­ing sto­ry, which start­ed with her great grand­par­ents leav­ing Lithua­nia for Siberia and con­clud­ed with her life today in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island, with stops in Manchuria and Cana­da along the way. The only mem­o­ries she car­ried with her were of her recipes includ­ing her family’s deli­cious Passover break­fast chrim­sel, kind of a fried mat­zo latke cov­ered with blue­ber­ry pre­serves and baked.

Anoth­er time, hear­ing about a choco­late dessert served by a few of the hun­dred or so Jews liv­ing in El Sal­vador from an acquain­tance of my daugh­ter, I jumped on a plane and got myself invit­ed for Fri­day night din­ner. As often hap­pens in the Jew­ish world, I was friend­ly with the host’s cousins who were dear friends from my Jerusalem days. Not only did I get a delec­table, no-bake Schoko­lade Gewurst out of the trip, a choco­late sala­mi cook­ie sim­i­lar to the knack knicks I used to eat when I lived in Israel, but I also got to sam­ple local Jew­ish dish­es brought by oth­er guests, includ­ing a deli­cious yuc­ca latke. (This recipe is also in the book!) Through these foods I was able to glimpse through the prism of his­to­ry into the lives of Jews who immi­grat­ed from Ger­many and Alsace Lor­raine to San Sal­vador in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry but main­tain close ties to the Unit­ed States and Israel today.

As I was try­ing to dis­en­tan­gle the true recipe from an adul­ter­at­ed 1950s ver­sion that sub­sti­tut­ed blue­ber­ry pie fill­ing (a new prod­uct) for the fresh blue­ber­ries used in Poland and Cana­da, a young woman who often vis­its my fam­i­ly came into my kitchen. When she saw me try­ing to mold the oblong-shaped dough into a pock­et for the blue­ber­ries, she explained excit­ed­ly that her grand­moth­er made the same blue­ber­ry bun — but it was bet­ter. Is that bash­ert? I thought so. We then made them togeth­er with fresh blue­ber­ries in the spring from my favorite local farmer. The buns, as the Cana­di­ans like to call them, were delicious.

I even­tu­al­ly learned that the young woman’s grand­moth­er and the bak­er from Toron­to lived 30 miles apart in South­west Poland. Each time that I bite into these buns now, I think that had these two cooks not left before the Holo­caust, this recipe would have been lost in the Nazi dec­i­ma­tion of the very reli­gious Jews of the area.

Sto­ries like this one are what makes me always inter­est­ed in Jew­ish and makes me write my books. With all these peo­ple I get glimpses of their lives as Jews in so very dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances and, no mat­ter where I am, I always get some­thing deli­cious to eat.

Joan Nathan is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to The New York Times and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She is the author of eleven books, includ­ing Jew­ish Cook­ing in Amer­i­ca and The New Amer­i­can Cook­ing, both of which won both James Beard Awards and IACP Awards.