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

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


"Fascinating." Moira Hodgson, Wall Street Journal


A beloved culinary historian’s short takes on six famous women through the lens of food and cooking—what they ate and how their attitudes toward food offer surprising new insights into their lives.

Everyone eats, and food touches on every aspect of our lives—social and cultural, personal and political. Yet most biographers pay little attention to people’s attitudes toward food, as if the great and notable never bothered to think about what was on the plate in front of them. Once we ask how somebody relates to food, we find a whole world of different and provocative ways to understand her. Food stories can be as intimate and revealing as stories of love, work, or coming-of-age. Each of the six women in this entertaining group portrait was famous in her time, and most are still famous in ours; but until now, nobody has told their lives from the point of view of the kitchen and the table.

It’s a lively and unpredictable array of women; what they have in common with one another (and us) is a powerful relationship with food. They include Dorothy Wordsworth, whose food story transforms our picture of the life she shared with her famous poet brother; Rosa Lewis, the Edwardian-era Cockney caterer who cooked her way up the social ladder; Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady and rigorous protector of the worst cook in White House history; Eva Braun, Hitler’s mistress, who challenges our warm associations of food, family, and table; Barbara Pym, whose witty books upend a host of stereotypes about postwar British cuisine; and Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmopolitan, whose commitment to “having it all” meant having almost nothing on the plate except a supersized portion of diet gelatin.

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Title:What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories
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    What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories Reviews

  • Susan

    “If I eat I feel guilty. And I’d rather feel hungry.”The above is a quote from one of the six women featured in this book – Helen Gurley Brown, editor of “Cosmopolitan,” for over thirty ye...

  • Karen Witzler

    Very enjoyable. An assemblage of almost randomly chosen women from literature and history whose stories are retold by a gifted food writer. Intellectually lively and historically interesting with each...

  • Roman Clodia

    You never just eat. No matter how hungry you are, it's never just food. In this vastly entertaining book, Shapiro uncovers the 'food stories' of six women: from Dorothy Wordsworth who cooked for her ...

  • Diane S ?

    Review soon....

  • Sarah Swann

    This was middle of the road for me. I enjoyed 3 of the 6 stories and ended up having to DNF the last story about Helen Gurley Brown. I couldn't read anymore about how her mindframe was "be skinny, no ...

  • J.M. Cornwell

    Laura Shapiro delves into lives of six famous women, many of whom are known to history even here in the 21st century. Beginning with Dorothy Wordsworth, the sister of the poet Wordsworth and their ear...

  • Kayo

    I thought this would be a totally different book. It wasn't that interesting and I couldn't care less about most of her 6 subject. Very disappointing. It could have been great....

  • Katie/Doing Dewey

    What She Ate is a biography of six famous, infamous, or just plain interesting women told through the food they ate. Subjects include Dorothy Wordsworth; an 19th century caterer; Eleanor Roosevelt; Ev...

  • Anne

    I had a hard time getting through this book, and I'm not sure why. The author had a great idea for a book, and she wrote a fairly interesting book. However, the two were not the same. Perhaps if she h...

  • Brenda

    This is a book about what 6 women in history ate. Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of poet William Wordsworth, Rosa Lewis, a female chef in England, which was rare in her time, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun,...