Nonfiction Review: What She Ate

August 2, 2017 Uncategorized 6 ★★★★★

Nonfiction Review: What She AteTitle: What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories
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.

6 Responses to “Nonfiction Review: What She Ate”

  1. Geoff W

    This sounds really cool and actually reminds me of a photo that was making the rounds in one of my Facebook groups recently of Nixon’s last meal in The White House.

  2. Sarah's Book Shelves

    Oh wow! Now I feel like I should go back to this one! I could barely get through the Introduction (long, rambling, writing style that I didn’t love).

    But, I adored the concept. Is the rest of the book like the Intro or really different?

    • DoingDewey

      I don’t think it changed too much. The intro might have been a little more rambling, with more digressions into the author’s own experiences, but the tone and style stayed pretty consistent throughout.

    • DoingDewey

      It seemed like a lot of her choice had to do with who records were available for and serendipity, as she stumbled on interesting characters in her research. She might have given more detailed reasons, but I’m afraid that if she did, I’ve forgotten already!

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