Food has played a starring role in the lives of so many famous or infamous people. Diplomatic agreements have been negotiated over elaborate feasts, novels have been fueled by strong coffee, and marriages have ended over a meal gone bad.

In What the Great Ate, brothers Matthew and Mark Jacob have cooked up a bountiful sampling of the peculiar culinary likes, dislikes, habits, and attitudes of famous — and often notorious — figures throughout history.

In this photo from the 1920s, First Lady Grace Coolidge samples a cookie that was made by a Girl Scout troop in New York State.  President Calvin Coolidge made derisive comments about his wife's kitchen skills.

Rube Waddell was one of baseball's outstanding pitchers during the early 1900s.  But he had a habit that greatly aggravated his catcher and roommate — eating animal crackers in bed.  The team's owner got Waddell to sign a contract in which the pitcher agreed to cease this annoying habit.

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  • "... a smorgasbord of amusing tidbits on the favorite foods of prominent artists, scientists, sports stars and, yes, politicos."
  • The Washington Post
  • "... many fascinating facts" CBS News' Health Blog
  • An "amusing grab-bag of food-related anecdotes"
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • "... an impressive catalogue of food-related tales about the world's most famous people." New York Daily News
  • "Brims with fun-filled anecdotes ..." Andrew W. Smith, Oxford Encyclopedia of Food & Drink
  • "This is a fascinating read." Jeff Houck, The Tampa Tribune

  • "... a good helping of the book's pleasure comes from the cognitive dissonance of the 'great' eating, well, the small. Does it trivialize the president to learn that Ronald Reagan was a lover of jelly beans?" The New Yorker
  • "... one of the most enjoyable, enlightening, informative and, frankly, simply fun books." Rick Kogan, Chicago's WGN radio
  • One of "17 Food-Themed Books You'll Want to Eat Up"
  • More magazine
  • The Jacob brothers "must've mucked through skyscraper-size piles of research materials to put together this book."  Philadelphia City Paper
  • Named one of 13 "Books on Foodies' Beach Blankets" for the summer. 
  • Publishers Weekly
  • "This is one book I had a hard time putting down."
  • Food editor, Winston-Salem (NC) Journal
  • "... it was with gusto that I devoured [this] book ..."
  • The Montreal Gazette
  • The book is "one that I'm certain you will enjoy sharing with your friends and family."  Around the Horn, a baseball blog
  • "It's a book to nibble on, not consume all at once, but will provide plenty of curiosities with which you can fascinate friends."
  • Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union
  • "There are enough interesting stories in here to spark many good dinner party conversations."
  • The Calgary Herald
  • "This book has a massive collection of amusing food trivia ..."
  • ifood, a web portal
  • "... on our list of must reads"
  • "Let's Just Talk," WQRT radio in Cincinnati
  • "... a book that's full of fun food facts, trivia and other tidbits ..."
  • The Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)
  • "This looks like an interesting book."
  • A "delicious book"
  • Francophilia Gazette
Enter a State of Foodphoria
Foodphoria is the Weblog written by co-author Matthew Jacob. Foodphoria offers Matthew's irreverent, no-nonsense commentary on eating, drinking and dining. Click here to visit the blog.
10 Things You Might Not Know...
... about beer, France and lots of other things. Click here to read samples of the Chicago Tribune's "10 Things You Might Not Know ..." series, which is written by co-author Mark Jacob.

Football Star Tackled and Ate with Gusto

Art Donovan, a Hall of Fame pro football star with the Baltimore Colts, died on Sunday, August 4 at the age of 88. Donovan helped to lead the Colts to the 1958 National Football League championship. He ate with the same verve as he tackled.

In our book, we discuss how Donovan was known as a late-night food binger, gobbling up pizzas, hot dogs and other foods long after dinner time. But on the morning of the NFL championship game in 1958, Donovan opted for a light pre-game meal: two bowls of consomme soup.


Matthew Talks Food at Patriotic Organization

Matthew spoke tonight about famous foods in American history at an event sponsored by the Society of the Cincinnati in Washington, D.C.  The SOC is the nation's oldest patriotic organization. (Learn more about them here.) Matthew shared a number of stories from What the Great Ate, the book written by he and his brother Mark.

Nearly 60 people gathered in the ballroom of SOC's historic headquarters building to hear Matthew speak, and copies of the book were also sold. Ice cream was served, and Matthew noted that ice cream was a treat that George Washington couldn't resist. ream. In the summer of 1790, Washington spent roughly $200 on ice cream.

Thanks to the fine people at SOC for inviting Matthew to speak at this event. Your historic building is a treasure, and a marvelous place to share stories of our "founding foodies." 


Mandela's Fruit and Veggie Garden

Today is the 95th birthday for Nelson Mandela, who remains under close care at a South African hospital. The road to the nation’s presidency was a rocky one for Mandela. He spent more than 27 years in prison while the country’s white rulers struggled to maintain a system of racial apartheid.

While imprisoned, Mandela redirected much of his passion to a fruit and vegetable garden. To provide compost for the garden, Mandela collected the bones that remained after prison meals and persuaded fellow inmates to hammer these bones into a powder that was added to the soil.

By 1975, he and other prisoners had grown two thousand chilies, nearly a thousand tomatoes, two watermelons, and other assorted plants. Mandela’s obsessive oversight of the garden was almost unnerving to fellow prisoners. One of them wrote that “he is fanatical about it.”


Webster Loved Chowder

For more than 20 years during the 19th century, Daniel Webster served as either a congressman or U.S. senator.  The New England political icon also served as secretary of state under two different presidents. Historians usually cite him as one of America's greatest congressional orators, but Webster thought as much about what entered his mouth as what came out of it.

He once delivered a long speech on the Senate floor about the joys of cooking and eating seafood chowder. Several surviving chowder recipes are attributed to Webster. He once stated that eating a good bowl of chowder "will make you no longer envy the gods."


Fey's French Fried Fantasy

Bossypants, the memoir written by award-winning actress Tina Fey, was released two years ago, but it remains on the New York Times bestseller list. The actress who stars on "30 Rock” told Esquire magazine in 2010 that “the recurring dream of my childhood is to be in a room up to my neck in McDonald’s french fries and I’ve got to eat my way out.  It’s great.”