Journalist, author and seasonal Chilmark resident Joan Nathan holds a unique place in American letters — and kitchens — as the country’s leading authority on Jewish cooking traditions from around the world.

The well-traveled writer and cook has explored the Jewish culinary diaspora through print reporting, television documentaries and 11 cookbooks, including the James Beard Award-winning staple Jewish Cooking in America.

Ms. Nathan’s 12th book, My Life in Recipes, came out this month to glowing reviews in the national press and sold-out author events on the East and West coasts.

“I’ve been very gratified at the reception,” Ms. Nathan told the Gazette by telephone from Los Angeles, the morning after a rooftop party celebrating the new book.

Many hands helping to make the challah bread — Gabriela Herman

Both cookbook and memoir, My Life in Recipes is the story — with recipes — of how a little girl from Providence, R.I. became an accomplished journalist, a widely respected food historian and a trusted source of kitchen wisdom for generations of home cooks.

“It’s about what happened to me,” said Ms. Nathan, whose engaging book chronicles the stages of her life and career in 35 short chapters, each accompanied by recipes — more than 100 in all — and preparation tips.

“The how-to of cooking is important,” she said.

My Life in Recipes can also be read as a how-to for anyone who wants to make the most out of life’s opportunities, as Ms. Nathan has, from exploring family history to venturing into new jobs and cultures.

Writing with warmth and personality, Ms. Nathan enriches her memoir with diary entries, letters to friends and family and excerpts from her earlier work, all of which shed additional light on her recollections and recipes alike.

It’s not always a flattering light: “I made dinner. Everything burned,” the future New York Times and Boston Globe food writer confessed as a tween in 1956.

But mistakes are part of a cook’s progress, according to Ms. Nathan, whose memoir also includes the frank acknowledgment of past publishing errors — and how she handled them.

A shabbat dinner on the Vineyard. — Gabriela Herman

“Everybody has mistakes, but not everybody talks about it,” she told the Gazette. “I think it’s important to tell those stories. You learn more by your mistakes.”

My Life in Recipes follows Ms. Nathan’s path from Providence and Long Island to studies in France and the U.S., as she earned a master’s degrees in French literature and, later, in public administration — eating, cooking and keeping a record of wherever she went.

Her time in Israel, where she worked for Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek and met her husband-to-be, Allen Gerson, helped awaken Ms. Nathan to the panorama of Jewish cooking culture in the Middle East. In years to come, she would travel the world, discovering new dishes — Jewish and otherwise — wherever she went.

Mr. Gerson, whom she married in 1974, and the couple’s children were among Ms. Nathan’s earliest recipe tasters as she built her career. After the family began spending summers in Chilmark nearly 50 years ago, the Vineyard became her summer proving ground for recipe development.

Among the many recipes (such as for rugelach) are stories of a life led by food and family. — Gabriela Herman

“You always cook a lot on the Vineyard. It’s so expensive to go to the restaurants [and] there are so many good cooks on the Vineyard,” she said.

Some of those Vineyard cooks and bakers make appearances in the book, along with the fishermen and farmers Ms. Nathan relies on for fresh local ingredients.

The chapter titled Summers on Martha’s Vineyard includes recipes for molasses muffins from former 7A Foods baker Ross Lamkin, now with Pie Chicks; New York-style black and white cookies from Rachael Fox, founding baker for Behind the Bookstore, and five other dishes, including codfish cakes and Fish with Rhubarb Tomato Sauce.

Ms. Nathan said she also perfected her Hungarian Chicken Livers with Onions and Red Peppers using chicken livers from the Good Farm, which subsequently moved from the Vineyard to Connecticut.

My Life in Recipes follows Joan Nathan’s path from Providence and Long Island to studies in France, and to the Vineyard. — Gabriela Herman

Her favorite Island grower, she said, is Mermaid Farm.

“I love picking raspberries with Caitlin and just talking with her,” said Ms. Nathan, who also praised North Tabor Farm.

“I love what North Tabor is doing,” she said. “Last year the only real dinners I was going to were at their farm. I even brought my grandchildren to the mushroom tasting and they loved it.”

For a book so filled with the warmth of family meals, My Life in Recipes began amid deep heartbreak for Ms. Nathan, after Mr. Gerson died in 2019 of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The shock of his unexpected loss was soon followed by the pandemic, which Ms. Nathan rode out largely on the Vineyard with her children. Their companionship, and the task of writing this book, helped to keep Mr. Gerson’s presence with her despite the grief, she said.

“I was lucky that I had the book to work on, because it made me bring my husband into my life,” Ms. Nathan said, explaining that she didn’t want to write about missing Mr. Gerson, but rather the 45 years they shared.

“I wanted to write about including him in my life,” she said.

Joan Nathan is booked to appear July 12 at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center and August 1 at the Chilmark Community Center.