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 Nobel Prize (2)


A Nobel Prize With a Side of Fries

Tonight is Oscar night, when a bounty of awards are given to film stars.  February is also an important month for another set of awards.  It’s the last month in which nominations can be submitted for this year’s Nobel Prizes.  Here are some tales showing the connection between food and Nobel winners:

  • After Columbia University professor Tsung-Dao Lee was named co-winner of the 1957 Nobel Prize in physics, a sign went up in the window of his favorite Chinese restaurant in New York. It read: “Eat here, win Nobel Prize.”
  • Ferid Murad, the Albanian-American who was co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Medicine, ran a restaurant with his wife to earn enough money to send their children through college.
  • Vitaly Ginzburg, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2003, endured a childhood of hardship in Soviet Russia.  Times were so tough that his family sometimes made their meals from dog meat.
  • Jane Addams was nominated 91 times for a Nobel Prize before she finally received the honor in 1931.  The Illinois native gained fame for opening Hull House, a so-called settlement house that sought to create social and educational opportunities for the poor.  Hull House even had a coffee house within its premises, but not because Addams was a java lover.  The coffee house was created mostly to discourage residents from visiting nearby saloons.

Martin Could Be Messy at Mealtime

Saturday marks the 82nd anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth.  A library branch in South Bend, Ind., plans to observe this holiday weekend by serving the civil rights leader’s favorite foods.  So what were they?

The Nobel Peace Prize winner enjoyed feasting on chitterlings, fried chicken, and black-eyed peas.  And when King devoured soul food, his favorite dining utensils were his hands.  He "never did learn the finer arts of eating," said one friend.  Another described a meal at a New York restaurant in which King’s companions laughed at him because, instead of "putting on the dog in terms of table manners, he brought his same old country habits of eating."