Book Buzz: What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories

Book Buzz: What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories

Hot Stuffed Eggs with Tomato Sauce
Mashed Potatoes
Whole Wheat Bread and Butter
Prune Pudding
Coffee

–Lunch at the White House

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If you’re a foodie, you’re probably gagging by now. Not the most appetizing menu, is it?

But before you start tweeting about this disgusting sounding menu, I will tell you that it is not from the current administration.

This meal actually was served on March 21, 1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, and his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, oversaw the catering operation.

Eleanor Roosevelt was open about her lack of interest in food. She declared that she really didn’t care what she ate. Consequently, the Roosevelt administration was not exactly known for its gourmet meals. That only deteriorated when Eleanor discovered her husband’s infidelity and retaliated by hiring the next head chef, who came to be known as the worst cook in White House history.

Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the women profiled in What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories. Author Laura Shapiro, herself a foodie and culinary historian, reveals the lives of women through the food that they ate, or didn’t.

How did these women view food, and how did their attitudes impact those around them?

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Dorothy Wordsworth was her brother’s companion, nurse, cook and caretaker. For a time she found fulfillment in making whatever William fancied, and taking pleasure from his enjoyment of her cooking. However, when he fell in love and got married, she fell into a deep depression, ate herself into oblivion, and wallowed in dementia for the rest of her life.

Rosa Lewis was a famous caterer in London who rose from obscurity as a scullery maid to become the most famous cook in England, the favored chef of the king. However, her queasy-sounding quail pies and other way-too-rich recipes lost favor after World War I and, refusing to change her style, she lost her clientele.

Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler’s mistress, was the charming hostess who wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time. Fussing over the procurement and preparation of the finest food and beverages for company, she was solicitous of every guest at the dinner table. She took no interest in the political dealings of her lover or anyone who visited. Instead, she made sure that everyone was well fed and having a good time.

I confess that this profile did not sit well with me and I wish it had been omitted, although Shapiro did acknowledge the moral distance between Braun and the rest of these women.

Author Barbara Pym was determined to make the best of the post-World War II deprivations in London by writing about food in delectable detail. Barely acknowledging there was a war, Pym writes lavishly about food in all her novels. She enjoyed sitting quietly in restaurants and observing the gustatory behavior of diners around her.

And finally, Helen Gurley Brown, who turned the old, boring Cosmopolitan into a racy, sexy best-selling magazine, also helped usher in the feminist era. At the same time, she doted on her husband’s every need and want, and spent an inordinate amount of time trying to please him … in every way. Her appreciation of food was only for how it could make him happy. Most likely an anorexic, she was reed thin all of her life and famously deprived herself of nourishment.

What She Ate is a terrific concept for a history lesson, and a fascinating peek into the personal lives of women in different eras. A tasty and entertaining amuse-bouche.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories from Viking for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

 

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26 Thoughts on “Book Buzz: What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories

  1. Historical Food stories is my favorite genre if it is even one. I love to read about food and combine that with famous women, my cup of tea!
    Haralee recently posted…Recipe DeathMy Profile

  2. This book sounds fabulous Helene. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  3. It amazes me how far we have come in the food industry. Yet still so far from where we need to be. Of course, I am very glad we do not have a lot of quail pie lying around the kitchen.

  4. OOH sounds like a fantastic book to ready! Love the giveaway too!

  5. I have never read such books but I’d love to try. It’s always good to leave your comfort zone and try new things. Even book wise!
    corinne & kirsty recently posted…5 Things That Broke My HeartMy Profile

  6. This book sounds right up my alley! The Franklin Administration’s menu was terrible sounding.

  7. This sounds like a unique, fun read.

  8. I have to admit this isn’t the sort of book I would normally just pick up – however it does sound really interesting, I would definitely be open to giving it a try.
    Sarah Bailey recently posted…How Much? The Cost of a DateMy Profile

  9. How could anyone not care about what they ate, Eleanor is a complex character that is for sure. I love the look at women through what they ate and how they dined though x
    Ana De- Jesus recently posted…Spa Seekers Event At The Mayfair HotelMy Profile

  10. ‘What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories’ sounds like a super interesting read. What people choose to eat (or not eat) really does tell you something about their character and stories.
    Heather Johnson recently posted…Learning Through Play with Play Smart Interactive Workbooks from Gakken WorkbooksMy Profile

  11. This sounds like an interesting read. I love history, so I’ll be excited to read more. I can’t believe Eleanor didn’t care about food. I probably like it too dang much.

  12. This is such an interesting book! I didn’t realize I was interested in this sort of thing until I read this post. Now I want the book…

  13. I’ve never heard of what she ate. Neither have I ever heard of a book that bases women’s experiences according to their food. Sounds interesting.

  14. What a marvelously unique look at history – meal by meal! I’d love to pick up this book on my next visit to the local bookstore. I enjoy the process of shopping for books in person and holding them in my hands.

  15. I actually really like the sound of that menu, lol! What a great glimpse into the past.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Ten Things to do in Lloret de Mar (with Kids!)My Profile

  16. Anne Yedlin on August 1, 2017 at 9:37 pm said:

    This sounds like a really neat read. It’s interesting to find out about people with how they eat.

  17. Ophelia Tang on August 2, 2017 at 12:02 am said:

    This sounds like a great read. These stories are so interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Blair villanueva on August 2, 2017 at 10:48 am said:

    Food is life! And listening to food related stories is beautiful. Especially the slow food.

  19. I would thoroughly enjoy this book. I’m an avid reader and baker so the two combined would be amazing.

  20. This isn’t the traditional book I would pick up to read but the best advice I’ve received from any writer is to read books from all genres. Even if its painful to read, get through it! So I may just pick this up and give a shot!

    http://www.nmdiaries.com

  21. This book sounds like a good read. I want to read food books.
    Garf recently posted…Actionable Tips That Can Help You Quit Smoking in 2017My Profile

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