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 McDonald's (2)


Supreme Court’s Dissenting Diners

As the first Monday in October approaches, we submit these briefs about Supreme Court justices and food:

* At Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings this summer, the failed airliner bombing in Detroit was discussed. Asked where she had been when the terrorism attempt occurred last Christmas Day, Kagan said: “You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”

* William Rehnquist snacked on Oreo cookies and washed them down with cranberry juice, a drink that he thought would help his aching back.

* Author Bill Geerhart wrote letters to Supreme Court justices, pretending to be a 10-year-old boy curious about their favorite McDonald’s food. Their responses: Sandra Day O’Connor likes Big Macs, Clarence Thomas prefers Egg McMuffins, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg “hasn’t been to McDonald’s since her son was 10” decades ago.

* William O. Douglas met his fourth wife at a Portland, Oregon, restaurant where she worked as a waitress. When they wed, he was 67 and she was 23.

* David Souter ate the same thing for lunch every day: a cup of yogurt and an apple -- including the seeds and the core.

* When Sandra Day O’Connor was being considered for the court, she hosted White House aides at her Arizona home, serving them a salmon mousse salad.

* Sonia Sotomayor was spotted in July at Joe’s Shanghai restaurant in New York’s Chinatown, enjoying soup dumplings, scallion pancakes, braised bean curd with spinach, and jasmine tea. She left a 30 percent tip.

Sources: “Sandra Day O'Connor” by Joan Biskupic; “The Nine” by Jeffrey Toobin; “The Supreme Court” by Jeffrey Rosen; “Wild Bill: The Legend and Life of William O. Douglas” by Bruce Allen Murphy; “Little Billy’s Letters” by Bill Geerhart; Chicago Tribune; New York Daily News; and Wall Street Journal.


The Golden Arches du Triumphe

Happy Bastille Day!  It’s a good day to celebrate the food that the French people love to eat — coq au vin, crepes suzette, and cheeseburgers.

Cheeseburgers?  You can purchase one at any of the roughly 70 McDonald’s restaurants now operating in Paris.  Each year, about half of the French visit a McDonald’s outlet at least once.  But long before they were embraced by France, the Golden Arches drew angry protests.  In the 1990s, French President Jacques Chirac partly defended a group of radical farmers who damaged a McDonald’s restaurant.  Incidentally, if you want fast-food in France, you’re seeking restauration rapide.