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.

Buy the Book!


  • "... 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.

Entries in hamburger (2)


Hail to the Hamburger

Summer is a time when many people like to light the grill.  And the most popular meat for the grill is a hamburger.  The famous and the burger have crossed paths in some interesting ways: 

  • A visit to Burger King marked a turning point in the life of actor Robert Downey Jr.  The actor said he pulled into one of the chain’s outlets in 2003 and ordered a burger so “disgusting” that he viewed the meal as a bad omen, prompting him to kick his illegal drug habit.
  • In 2008, President George W. Bush stressed the close relationship that the U.S. had with Great Britain.  Appearing with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the president told reporters, "Look, if there wasn’t a personal relationship, I wouldn't be inviting the man to [have] a nice hamburger.  Well done, I might add."
  • Leslie Pawson won his second Boston Marathon in 1938, but the hamburger he ate soon before the race was blamed for nearly foiling his victory.  After taking an early lead, Pawson fell behind at the eight-mile mark because — in the words of a Boston Globe sportswriter — the hamburger "began to voice its protest."  Seven miles later, Pawson regained the lead and held on to win.  But what had caused him to lose the lead?  "Maybe it was the hamburger, and maybe it wasn't," Pawson concluded, vowing never to eat so soon before the marathon.
  • Queen Latifah is a co-owner of a few outlets of the Fatburger chain.  The award-winning actress told a talk-show host that her investment was motivated by her love for turkey burgers.
  • A hamburger is one of Warren Buffett’s favorite entrées.  In 2007, the investment guru wrote a letter to shareholders reassuring them of his health despite his advancing age.  "It's amazing what Cherry Coke and hamburgers will do for a fellow," he explained.


She Had a Beef With the System

The name Clara Luper may not ring a bell, but she played a crucial role in desegregating lunch counters in Oklahoma City during the 1960s.  Luper, who died earlier this week, would lead a group of children and adults into drugstore lunch counters for sit-ins -- waiting for hours to be served burgers and sodas.

"Within that hamburger," she later said, "was the whole essence of democracy."

Today, a street near Oklahoma's state capitol is named in Luper's honor.