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What the Great Ate: A Curious History of Food and Fame Paperback – July 13, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

MATTHEW JACOB’s opinion columns have been published by the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Boston Globe, and other print and online media. Visit his popular food blog at Foodphoria.blogspot.com.

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307461955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307461957
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,668,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Jacobs' book What the Great Ate: A Curious History of Food and Fame is packed full of fun food stories. I'm not a foodie, but I quite enjoyed it.

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.
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Format: Paperback
I found the first half of this book to be more enjoyable than the last half. I particularly enjoyed hearing about celebrities and political figures I'm familiar with and what foods they relish. I wasn't familiar with all the sports figures mentioned or all the historical figures. And many of the stories were cringe-worthy, not appetizing. Actually dieters might have somewhat of a problem reading this book as many of the foods mentioned are mouth-watering, but then there are enough disgusting stories to offset the tantalizing ones. If you keep reading, your appetite will soon disappear. Way too much talk of vermin and such for many people. I found a few of the more unusual stories interesting--for example, if you've ever heard someone say, "The meat was as tough as leather," you will find a story here about the consumption of leather. But truthfully if you read some of this before a meal, you may find yourself downing far fewer calories, if you can eat at all!

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Book was very good though somewhat repetitive. I'm interested in diet of many people over the centuries. Have not yet found such a book source.
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