Author: Laura Shapiro
Source: from publisher for review
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; Eva Braun; author Barbara Pym; and Helen Gurley Brown, editor of Cosmopolitan. Since I’m all about quirky micro-histories, I was so here for this.
Like many micro-histories, this book starts with a narrow topic but leads the the reader on a journey through many fascinating and otherwise unconnected stories. Food may strike you as a strange way to lead people into interesting biographies. I know I wasn’t sure it would work. It did though, amazingly well. Food is such an intimate part of people’s lives. The food we choose to eat, how we prepare it, how we serve it, how we eat it, and who we eat it with – all these decisions reveal a surprising amount about us. The author painted full, complex portraits of these women, all by focusing on what they ate.
Like many authors of micro-histories, the author clearly had a passion for the topic she writes about. Her love for food history was clear on every page and it pulled me in too. While there were a few small sections I found dry, for most of the book, I was completely caught up in the stories the author was telling. She wasn’t quite as funny as Mary Roach, but she was equally engaging and will join Roach on my list of must-read authors of nonfiction.