When Judith Dern first moved to Seattle in the mid-1990s, she didn’t know what to expect from the city’s dining landscape, as she left the bustling food scene of San Francisco.

“People said, ‘Well, what are you going to eat up there?’” she recalled. 

Almost a quarter-century later, the answer has proven to be plenty.

The Magnolia resident is now sharing some of what’s she learned about the region’s rich culinary history in her new book, “The Food and Drink of Seattle: From Wild Salmon to Craft Beer.” Dern will be at Magnolia’s Bookstore (3206 W. McGraw St.) on Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m., during the Magnolia Art Walk.

Checking in at well over 200 pages — not including an extensive bibliography — Dern’s book runs the gamut, from the area’s geology and geography (which determined what crops are native to the Pacific Northwest), to the influence of immigration, all the way to present-day dining.

“There were so many dimensions to it that intrigued me,” she said.

Dern admits the scope wasn’t without its challenges, and there was a lot to learn over what proved to be a three-year process. As a transplant, she didn’t have the benefit of learning local history in school.

“How do you narrow it enough to tell the story, be authentic, and recognize the people that had an impact in making the city’s food story what it is?” she said.

And while Dern is no stranger to culinary writing, as the author of several cookbooks and numerous national and regional magazine articles, her latest endeavor was far more intensive, with an “academic research umbrella over it,” she said. The onus was on her to make that a compelling read.

“I wanted the writing style on this to be approachable and fun to read, as well as factual,” she said, "so finding that balance was important to me.”

But the breadth of information didn’t dissuade her.

“The carrot at the end of the stick was that nobody else had done this,” she said,” and I felt that it was just such fascinating information to share.”

What did Dern find particularly interesting? For one, while many jettisoned their cast-iron cook stoves as they traveled West in the mid-1800s, Mary Denny (wife of Arthur Denny) brought hers all the way to Seattle. Another was that the first person to establish a restaurant in the city — a combination restaurant/barbershop, to be exact — was the city’s first African-American resident, Manuel Lopes, in 1853. And then, there’s the saga of Pike Place Market.

“How that came together was like, whoa, we’ve gone through this sort of industrial upscale before,” she said.

She was also compelled by the general question of how to define Seattle cuisine, and by how accessible the city’s food culture is.

“A home cook can go buy wild Alaska salmon [directly from markets stocked by Seattle-based fishermen]” she said. “We’re so lucky to have the produce grown close by, and that’s something that most cities do not have, which to me sets Seattle far apart.”

In addition to the considerable history, Dern also peppered in several recipes — including one for the classic Canlis Salad.

“I thought the recipes were important, just to sort of give a flavor of what Seattle’s about,” she said.

The book is the latest in the “Big City Food Biographies Series,” published by Rowman & Littlefield.

For more information on Dern, visit her website, www.judithhdern.com. To comment on this story, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.