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.

Hoffa's Last Lunch

On this day in 1975, longtime Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa disappeared.  At the time, however, he was an ex-Teamsters president who had served prison time. Hoffa was last seen that day outside a suburban Detroit restaurant called Machus Red Fox.  He reportedly showed up there to have lunch with Anthony Giacalone, who allegedly had ties to organized crime.  What happened to Hoffa remains a mystery.

As for the restaurant, it served its upscale clientele a menu of rich dishes — from rack of lamb a la Leopold to veal scaloppine a la Française.  Hoffa liked Machus Red Fox so much that he had the restaurant host his son James’ wedding reception.  After Hoffa disappeared, the restaurant’s cachet grew.

During his years as Teamsters leader, Hoffa rarely had the time to eat a relaxed, sit-down dinner.  But when he did, his preferred entrée was a porterhouse steak, served well-done.


A Park and Pork Perfectionist

Earlier this week, CBS News’ Health Blog posted this article featuring stories from What the Great Ate.  In fact, our book includes an anecdote about former CBS executive William Paley, who helped build the TV network into a primetime powerhouse.  Paley was a perfectionist. When CBS built its headquarters on New York City's Sixth Avenue, he analyzed every detail of its construction. The same was true for the small park — named for Paley — that was created less than a block away.

Even the hot dogs that would be sold at the park's concession stand caught his attention. After sampling dozens of frankfurters for the stand, Paley was dissatisfied. He ordered that a hot dog be created to reflect his taste and then instructed employees precisely how they were to cook it.

(Photo by Mike Johnson -


Polenta Is the Reason

During a long visit to Italy, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe concluded that northern Italians were more attractive than those who lived farther south. The German poet and author of Faust attributed this to the different way in which the two groups ate polenta.


A Square Dessert

Howard Hughes would have been unhappy if a restaurant had delivered this piece of chocolate cake to him. The weathy aviator and industrialist had a rule that a piece of chocolate cake had to be cut into a perfect square. And sometimes Hughes even used a ruler to confirm that his piece was indeed a perfect square. If it wasn't, he would send that piece of cake back to the kitchen.


A Very Strange Garnish

What did actor Jackie Gleason request on top of his pot roast? And why did Adolf Hitler once refuse to try a piece of his own birthday cake?  Learn the answers to both questions by reading this interview with co-author Mark Jacob that the Toronto Star published on Sunday.