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.

Blame the Pasta

By 1928, Al Capone carried 255 pounds on his five-feet, 10-and-a-half inch frame.  “Mountains of pasta and Niagaras of Chianti had deposited layers of fat” on the gangster’s body, wrote one biographer.


Cosby's Dining Destination

When Bill Cosby finds himself in Washington, D.C., a meal at Ben’s Chili Bowl is almost a given.  The actor courted his wife Camille at Ben’s in the 1960s, and he held a national press conference at the greasy spoon-style eatery in 1985 to celebrate his then top-ranked TV sit-com.  “I have always loved Ben’s Chili Bowl,” wrote Cosby, “and it has always been consistent.”


To Colette, a Truffle Was No Trifle

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, the French novelist known simply as Colette, died on this date in 1954. She was the source of scandal, mostly for having an affair with her teenaged step-son.  Yet, when she died, she became the first French woman granted an official state funeral.  The author of the novel Gigi loved truffles — underground mushrooms whose delicate fragrance and flavor are prized by gourmands.  And she was particular about how they were prepared.

Truffles, she wrote, were to be steeped in dry white wine. Don't use champagne, she noted, because the truffle does very well without it. As for seasoning truffles, she instructed cooks to add just a little salt and pepper. "No other spices whatsoever!" she insisted.


Parsley Turns to Olympic Gold

Olympic historian David Wallechinsky notes that the 1968 winner of the Olympic 5,000-meter run, Mohamed Gammoudi of Tunisia, maintained his 135-pound figure with a daily diet of five yogurts, 10 pieces of fruit, two pastries, four cups of tea, two cups of coffee, and large helpings of meat, fish, milk and cheese. And he was allowed to eat all the parsley he wanted.



The Food That Fuels Phelps

Star swimmer Michael Phelps has had a productive Olympics, adding new medals to those he won in the Beijing four years ago.  A champion athlete has to monitor his diet closely, but Phelps’ eating habits were not so strict during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.  Although he built his diet around pizza and pasta, Phelps managed to win six gold medals.

After Phelps made history at the 2008 Olympics, a British newspaper reported that the “secret” to the swimmer’s success was his 12,000-calorie-a-day diet.  But Phelps called that calorie count an exaggeration, saying that he consumed between 8,000 to 10,000 calories each day — a range that’s still about four times the caloric intake recommended for a typical adult male.