This is an intimate and affectionate look at the lives of six women through the lens of food and their relationships to it. I particularly enjoyed reading the sections on Dorothy Wordsworth (who went from the spare life of romantic self-denial: cheerfully eating fallen apples and local bacon while keeping house for her brother; to self-pity and self-indulgence: overeating to excess and demanding gifts of food from anyone who came to visit her), and Barbara Pym, who seemed to have great affection for British food (despite its popular reputation of awfulness) and food in general, and wrote it into her novels and journals constantly. I recommend you read this with some good snacks handy.— Cora
A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2017
One of NPR Fresh Air's "Books to Close Out a Chaotic 2017"
NPR's Book Concierge Guide To 2017's Great Reads "How lucky for us readers that Shapiro has been listening so perceptively for decades to the language of food." --Maureen Corrigan, NPR Fresh Air Six "mouthwatering" (Eater.com) short takes on six famous women through the lens of food and cooking, probing how their attitudes toward food can offer surprising new insights into their lives, and our own. 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. What She Ate is 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.
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.