Interview with Alan Silberberg, author/illustrator of P IS FOR PASTRAMI

Laced with humor and heart, Alan Silberberg‘s alphabet board book P IS FOR PASTRAMI: The ABCs of Jewish Food (Viking, 2024) is a fun-filled, delicious exploration of Jewish cuisine. Charming anthropomorphic food illustrations and clever, quippy dialogue bubbles will engage even the youngest readers. I look forward to learning more about Alan’s writing, illustrating, and research process for this delightful book. Welcome back, Alan!

Did you do a lot of research before creating P IS FOR PASTRAMI? Any cooking or baking?

Great question! There was a lot of research to create the “alphabet” of foods. At first, my editor and I thought that coming up with a list of A-Z foods would be a “piece of sponge cake”… but after quickly realizing some letters offered lots of options (B for example) – there were many other letters that pushed me to look beyond my Ashkenazi upbringing. It was a blessing really, because that was when we realized that the foods in the book needed to represent Jewish foods from all over the world and not simply the “deli” foods.

Foods like INJERA (an Ethiopian flat bread) and QUAJADO (Sephardic egg, veggie and cheese dish) opened my eyes and hunger pangs and it felt great coming up with funny ways to put them in the book. Initially, I had hoped to try and cook and bake each of the 26 foods… but I have to come clean and say that I didn’t (beyond making my yearly, yummy LATKES!)

Alan Silberberg

Have you tried every food featured in P IS FOR PASTRAMI?

Ha! I had hoped that by the time the book came out that I would’ve tasted each of the foods but truthfully I’d say that in my life I’ve only nibbled and noshed on about 20 of the 26 foods in the book.

Were there any Jewish foods you would have liked to include that didn’t make it into the book?

Oh yes! In creating our “set list”, my editor Maggie Rosenthal and I knew we were going to have lots of leftovers and that our choices would probably cause some discussion about why B is for “Bureka” and not “Bagel”…  Because I loved my cartoon for “K” (“Kosher Hot Dog”) Kugle fans have to settle on seeing that dish as N is for “NOODLE PUDDING”… quite a controversy in my comments so far!!

All that to say… there are so many foods with Jewish connection that maybe folks will be hungry for a SECOND Jewish Food A-Z from me.

I loved seeing injera, shakshuka, zhug, along with Ashkenazi fare. Why was it important for you to include these dishes?

Aside from needing to find foods that would complete the alphabet – I wanted to be as inclusive as possible about the foods represented. As a board book, P is for PASTRAMI is for tiny tots – but certainly it also has a broader age appeal. How cool to be introducing kids and families to some foods they may have never known were Jewish. Again, growing up I actually never knew much about “Sephardic” foods and customs. And for families that do have different Jewish roots (from me) it was important that the book included them too.

What comes first for you as an author/illustrator, the text, or the art? What about the humourous dialogue in speech bubbles?

Hmmm. My process is a little of everything. When I start doodling  I either immediately get a silly idea or joke for the particular food or just concentrate on making the cartoon look like the food. Often it’s in revisions that I get that “aha” and  add little dialogues or side comments that boosts each page’s giggle factor.

What’s your favorite Jewish snack?

I have a fondness for chocolate babka and rugelach. And just the sight of those bright jelly candy slices is a time machine back to being a kid saying the four questions at Passover!

It’s always so fun to chat with you, Barbara. It sure would be great to share a Jewish food snack together soon! What’s your favorite?

Thanks, Alan! Great to chat with you. My favorite? I have SO many! But for today, I’ll go with a black and white cookie – best when shared with a friend!

Alan Silberberg ( is an award-winning author, cartoonist and children’s TV creator who has worked with Nickelodeon and Disney. He’s the author and illustrator of three previous middle grade novels including Milo: Sticky Notes & Brain Freeze, which won the Sid Fleishman Humor Award and is currently in development to become an animated TV series. Meet the Latkes was Alan’s debut picture book, followed by Meet the Matzah and Meet the Hamantaschen.

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