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.

Entries in veal (2)


Godfather's Pizza

Well, not exactly. Forty years ago today, the epic film "The Godfather" opened in theaters. The movie, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, ranks #2 on the American Film Institute's list of "the 100 greatest movies ever."  Perhaps "The Godfather" deserves to be ranked by restaurant critics and food aficionados. After all, so many of the film's scenes were connected to food or dining.

Britain's Prospect magazine reminds us of the various ways in which meals played a starring role:

Food is everywhere in this gangster classic, and privy to a lot of trauma. Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) dies in the family tomato patch. The family soldier Clemenza instructs a hitman to "leave the gun, take the cannoli" after a mob execution. But perhaps its most famous food moment is the scene in which the young Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, shoots a clan rival and his accomplice over dinner in an Italian restaurant. Coppola builds the tension masterfully. By the time someone says, "Try the veal. It's the best in the city," you want to crawl under the table and cower.


Fast Food, Fast Breaks

The New York Knicks recently obtained Carmelo Anthony — a four-time National Basketball Association all-star — in a trade with the Denver Nuggets.  The Knicks traded away Danilo Gallinari.  At least one Italian restaurant was sad to see Gallinari leave the Big Apple.  Gallinari would dine at Via Della Pace about once a week.  His favorite dishes were the gnocchi in cheese sauce or the veal with olives.  “He’s always very nice, says ‘ciao’ to everybody,” said one waiter.  Here are other stories about basketball and food: 

  • Kevin Garnett has led the National Basketball Association in defensive rebounds five times. But when the star tried to rebound from an ankle injury during the 1999-2000 season, his mother suggested a remedy: tomato soup. Garnett was skeptical. “I’m like, ‘Ma, how is that going to help?’” he said. “But then you know what I did, right?” He took her advice and ate the soup.
  • During his Hall of Fame career, Charles Barkley ate with the same intensity that he shot the basketball. Barkley’s appetite was so prodigious that he earned the nickname “The Leaning Tower of Pizza.”
  • Michael Jordan’s skills on the basketball court made him a very wealthy man.  But there was a time when Jordan wasn’t sure he’d earn enough money to keep himself fed.  That’s partly why he took a home economics course in high school — because he “didn’t know if I’d have enough money to eat out” as an adult.