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.
LISTEN TO LAURA SHAPIRO HERE!
WHAT SHE ATE: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories by James Beard Award-winning writer Laura Shapiro is a unique account of the lives of six women from a perspective often ignored by biographers. Each woman in this entertaining group portrait was famous in her time, but until now, no one has explored their lives from the view of the kitchen and the table.
James Beard Award-Winning Food Writer
WHAT SHE ATE: Six Remarkable Women
and the Food That Tells Their Stories
Food stories can be as intimate and revealing as stories of love, work, or coming-of-age. Yet most biographers pay little attention to food, as if these great and notable figures never daydreamed about what they wanted to have for dinner or worried about what to serve their guests. Once we consider how somebody relates to food, we find a host of different and provocative ways to understand them. Everyone eats, and food touches on every aspect of our lives—social and cultural, personal and political.
Shapiro examines a lively and surprising array of women and how the theme that unites them is a powerful relationship with food:
- Dorothy Wordsworth, whose food story transforms our understanding of the life she led with her poet brother
- Rosa Lewis, an Edwardian-era Cockney caterer who cooked her way up the social ladder and would fit right in on Downton Abbey
- Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady notorious for serving the worst food in White House history
- Eva Braun, Hitler’s mistress who challenges our warm associations with food, family, and table, and whose last meal was famously a cyanide capsule
- Barbara Pym, whose witty novels upend a host of stereotypes about postwar British cuisine
- Helen Gurley Brown, the longstanding editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, whose commitment to ‘having it all’ meant having almost nothing to eat except a supersized portion of diet Jell-O
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Laura Shapiro has written on every food topic from champagne to Jell-O for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Slate, Gourmet, and many other publications. She is the author of three classic books of culinary history. Her awards include a James Beard Journalism Award and one from the National Women’s Political Caucus. She has been a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, where she also co-curated the widely acclaimed exhibition Lunch Hour NYC. More recently, Shapiro was featured in Michael Pollan’s Netflix documentary series Cooked (2016).