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Publisher's Summary

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.

"Establishes Laura Shapiro as the founder of a delectable new literary genre: the culinary biography." (Megan Marshall, Pulitzer-prize winning biographer)

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 supersize portion of diet gelatin.

©2017 Laura Shapiro (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Entertaining and spirited, [narrator Kimberly] Farr is convincing and intentional as she demonstrates that special talent of being able to disappear behind the words and allow the biographical food narratives to do the communicating. This is a fun, different look at people you may feel you already know." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting, but don't think the book's premise...

... was proven. I don't see at all how the food these women ate tells their story, except in the most basic way. Seems like Dorothy Wordsworth ate they way she did because that was the food that was available to her. Helen Gurley Brown needed to be thin, so she ate very little. Okay, but why did she need to be thin? I had similar questions of all the other subjects, and never got the answers. Having said this, you do learn about the lives of these women, so it is interesting in that regard. Hmm, perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt wasn't the saint she's often portrayed to be?

Feels like a better title for this book would be, Short Biographies of Remarkable Women, with Information About the Food they Ate. Okay, that's a bit unwieldy, but I hope you see my point.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Love to cook & eat

I found this book a little trite and did not enjoy it. The only part I found remotely interesting was the authors own story at the end. I would say about the rest “Who Care”?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fascinating

I enjoyed every minute of it. I'll never look at Elenor Roosevelt or Eva Braun the same way again. Nor will I look at an old cook book the same way again. It's inspired me to find my own food story.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Terrible book.

I finally have an answer if asked what is the worst book I’ve ever read. I feel like I was duped by the title and summary. There were not six remarkable women- Hitler’s mistress? Come on. The chapter on the one remarkable woman, Eleanor Roosevelt, was the worst account I’ve read about her. Food did not play an important part in most of their lives. I never would have read beyond the first chapter had it not been chosen for our book club. The person who selected it will be regarded with deep suspicion by the rest of us. No one liked it.

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Good short biographies

enjoyed the book , but the premise of food stories was not fully realized. I would recommended if you want a quick book.

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Too many women.

It could have stopped after Eva Braun. Too long. I liked learning about Eleanor Roosevelt.

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DULL!!!!! I would not recommend

struggled to listen finally gave up. dull....not a story but a sequence of narrative, not recommended

2 of 4 people found this review helpful