Passion for food inspires author and teacher Nina Furstenau

Nina Furstenau loves food. In addition to cooking and eating food, she also teaches food and wine writing classes, writes books about food, and reads food literature. Furstenau has written two culinary books and plans to write more.

In Savor Missouri: River Hills Country Food and Wine, Furstenau describes the culinary diversity throughout Missouri. Furstenau helps readers discover the hidden wineries, family-owned and homegrown businesses, and delectable bakeries throughout the state.

Before writing this book, Furstenau went on a hunt in search of the unique food and wine products in rural Missouri. She picked regions along the Missouri River, the Meramec River, and the Mississippi River. After picking a region, she looked for small communities around the river ways. Furstenau interviewed people from those communities to find out what the locals were most proud of in food or wine products.

“Some towns were really into their wines, some were really proud of their cheese makers, and some loved their peach orchards,” Furstenau said. “It wasn’t hard to learn what local food item each region was proud of.”

Furstenau tried to visit restaurants and wineries that used local products so that she could truly get the taste of that region. More than 50 recipes from these restaurants are included in Savor Missouri: River Hills Country Food and Wine, which will be released this winter by Missouri Life and Acclaim Publishing.

Before writing Savor Missouri, Furstenau emphasized her Indian culture in her culinary memoir, Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland.  The University of Iowa Press will release it in the fall of 2013.

“I wrote this book because food ties to culture in anyone’s life,” Furstenau said.

The title alone is interesting enough to attract attention. Furstenau got the title from a childhood memory of witnessing a hungry child bite straight through the skin of a banana. That memory is what made Furstenau passionate about food in the first place.

Furstenau also gained her inspiration by reading other culinary books.

“I am inspired by good writing in general, but especially on a topic that is important to each and every one of us — food,” she said.

Her favorites include The Art of Eating, by M.F.K. Fisher, The Language of Baklava, by Diana Abu-Jaber, and Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl.

Before writing her books and teaching at MU, Furstenau graduated from MU with a journalism degree in 1984.  She then ran a publishing company called Group III Communications Inc. with her husband.  They moved to a cattle farm in Fayette, Mo., where they had two children. In 2000, the Furstenaus sold their publishing company.  This is when Furstenau decided to come back to MU to complete her Master’s degree in English and Creative Writing, which she earned in 2006.

Furstenau then followed her passion for food and culture by writing her books and teaching at MU.

“Nina’s class has been one of my favorites,” Furstenau’s former student, Jackie Smith, said.  “She has a knack for taking the most simple movement, like the way you hold your pencil, or the way leaves crunch under your feet, and inspiring a story in her students.”

Smith said that Furstenau is interactive and pays attention to each student.

“The class was also pretty reading intensive, but I think her point was that in order to be a good writer you must be able to recognize good writing,” said another of Furstenau’s former students, Megan LaManna.

Smith and LaManna both took Furstenau’s Will Write for Food and Wine class taught through the science and agricultural journalism program.

Furstenau continues to teach at MU. She plans on writing another book in the spring, but does not know what it will be about yet.

By Scarlett Goodin
Corner Post Staff Writer