East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet, according to the English writer Rudyard Kipling. However, the Indian American writer Nina Mukerjee Furstenau has found that the twain can come to know each other through the universal  human experience of food. Born in Thailand to Indian parents, Furstenau grew up in Pittsburg. She has recounted this experience in “Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland,” a memoir with occasional recipes just published by the University of Iowa Press. The book has been gathering critical praise. “’Biting Through the  Skin’ is a delicious book in all ways — rich, evocative, lyrical prose that exactly suits the savory and sweet story of examining identity through the lens of food,” wrote Maureen Stanton, author of  “Killer Stuff and Tons of Money.” “I’m a product of Pittsburg, Kansas schools,” Furstenau said in a telephone interview from her office at the University of Missouri. “I’m a 1980 graduate of Pittsburg High School. I went to the old high school, where the middle school is now, then to the new PHS for my senior year.” She and brother Sandeep came to Pittsburg as a very small child in  1964, when their parents, Sachin and Sipra Mukerjee, decided to leave their home in the Indian state of Bengal and come to the United States in search of a bigger world with more opportunity that India offered at that time. The family’s first home in the United States was in Chicago, but one Chicago winter chilled that notion. They also found the city too large and impersonal. At that time McNally Manufacturing of Pittsburg, which designed and made coal processing equipment , had a branch in India, and Furstenau’s father had met Ed McNally in India. He had offered Mukerjee a job if he ever decided he wanted to live in a small town in Kansas, and when the family moved to Pittsburg, they found that McNally kept his word. Furstenau grew up eating toasted cheese sandwiches at the PX across the street from Lakeside Elementary and Junior High School, burgers at  Griff’s and, of course,  PICCO ice cream. At home, however, her mother prepared traditional Indian dishes such as roti, a non-leavened whole wheat bread, chutneys and a variety of curries. Mrs. Mukerjee, who became an English teacher in Pittsburg, also made cheese using only fresh milk, lemon juice and cheese. The family made several trips back to India to visit their families, and Furstenau relished the food and the nation’s rich cultural heritage. Her interest in food has always been teamed with a desire to be a writer, and she was on the PHS Booster staff. “Our teacher, John Harry, was an inspiration to me,” she said. She earned a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism in 1984, and shortly after that, she and her husband, Terry Furstenau, joined the Peace Corps and served in Tunisia. In ninth grade, Furstenau had invited six of her American girlfriends to a traditional Indian meal prepared by her mother. It was not a success, and Furstenau did not attempt to share her Indian food with others again until she reached out to the women in Tunisia. “My husband and I each had our technical jobs, but my memories of that time are almost all about the women,” she said. “They taught me recipes I loved, and I shared my recipes.” When they returned to the United States, Furstenau and her husband launched five business magazines and two international trade shows in the heavy equipment and environmental industries. The company was sold in 2001, and in 2007 Furstenau earned a master’s degree in English with a focus in creative writing. “My interest is in writing about culture, and food is a wonderful way to write about it,” she said. “Food is a nice lens to look at culture, what people eat, when they eat it, the rituals that accompany it. Each family is a little pocket of culture.” Her own family, including daughter Anna and son Ante, combines both Indian and American culture. “They have a mix of comfort foods, including macaroni and cheese and chicken curry,” Furstenau said. “Biting Through the Skin” is her first book, though her second, “Savor Missouri: River  Hills Food and Wine,” came out earlier. “Right now I’m working on a novel,” Furstenau said. “I’ve got the first draft done and I’m on the second draft edits.” She also teaches food and wine writing in the University of Missouri Science and Agricultural Journalism program. “Most students don’t think about food from soil to plate, and when they do it just opens it up,” Furstenau said. “There’s a whole world around food.” She now lives in Fayette, Mo., but has fond memories of Pittsburg. “My family loved Pittsburg,” she said. “It was a good place to be.”