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What the Great Ate: A Curious History of Food and Fame Paperback – July 13, 2010
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About the Author
MARK JACOB, deputy metro editor at the Chicago Tribune, was part of the team that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism. He is the author of the newspaper’s popular “10 Things You Might Not Know” feature. This is his fourth book.
Top Customer Reviews
In a casual writing style the authors bring together anecdotes from around the world. These are tiny morsels rather than a five course narrative meal, so the book would be perfect for very light beach reading (despite being a little over 250 pages, it only took me a couple of hours to breeze through), or better yet, something for the teenage kids (anecdotes appear in two or three paragraph sections--about one page a piece). Some parents might appreciate its reinforcement of messages about avoiding dangerous behaviors. For example, there is a story about Robert Downey Jr. "kicking his illegal drug habit" after a tragic visit to Burger King.
Although it is basically a collection of food-related trivia, the authors generally do a commendable job of introducing a wide range of figures, explaining their historical significance, and relating their relationships with food in an interesting way. Readers looking for critical engagement with the dietary quirks (what rationale did John D. Rockefeller come up with for preferring milk from "wet nurses" to that of cows?), or parents who want to avoid some of the potentially uncomfortable conversations that will inevitably result from all of this talk about food (bouts of diarrhea, cannibals, dog eating, and so forth) will probably want to look elsewhere.
I think that perhaps this book is best suited to young boys, perhaps middle-school age, who often develop an appetite for the bizarre. This crowd often gets a charge out of stomach-turning fetishes. But if you're not a tween-age boy, you may find yourself saying, "Ewwww" more often than you're saying, "Mmmmm!" And parents be warned, if you let your children read this weird, often raunchy, book, you may be asked some embarrassing questions. I wished that I could give it 3.5 stars but since the authors, the Jacobs, did a creditable job finding so many varied stories about food or non-food items that have been used to satisfy hunger I gave them the benefit of the doubt with four stars.