What She Ate by Laura Shapiro

What She Ate

"Fascinating." Moira Hodgson, Wall Street Journal“Mouthwatering.”—Eater.com 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.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 att...

Details What She Ate

TitleWhat She Ate
Release DateJul 25th, 2017
GenreNonfiction, Food and Drink, Food, History, Biography

Reviews What She Ate

  • Susan
    “If I eat I feel guilty. And I’d rather feel hungry.”The above is a quote from one of the six women featured in this book – Helen Gurley Brown, editor of “Cosmopolitan,” for over thirty years. It helps highlight the difficult, complicated relationship, that so many women have with food. Author, Laura Shapiro, takes six women and gives us a potted biography of each, with a particular slant towards their attitudes, and relationship, to ...
  • Karen Witzler
    Very enjoyable. An assemblage of almost randomly chosen women from literature and history whose stories are retold by a gifted food writer. Intellectually lively and historically interesting with each section just the right length for my bedtime reading. I confess I read the section on Eva Braun(cyanide and champagne) first. The more admirable women are Dorothy Wordsworth (lake fish), Rosa Lewis (pigeon pie), Eleanor Roosevelt (mutton and Home Ec...
  • Michelle
    No.I did not like this book. I started off saying "Well it's kind of interesting, in a sort of boring history class kind of way," but by mid-book, I had given up the optimism. What's the problem? First, the title: What SHE ate. Not what HE ate, not what she DIDN'T eat. And the majority of this book was not at all about what SHE ate. Next, six "remarkable" women - really? We have a mentally ill incestuous old maid, a server-come-cook who displays ...
  • Kayo
    I thought this would be a totally different book. It wasn't that interesting and I couldn't care less about most of her 6 subject. Very disappointing. It could have been great.
  • Roman Clodia
    You never just eat. No matter how hungry you are, it's never just food. In this vastly entertaining book, Shapiro uncovers the 'food stories' of six women: from Dorothy Wordsworth who cooked for her brother as if she were his wife, to Helen Gurley Brown who might gush about food but who never ate much more than protein powder and sugar-free jelly (yeurch!) Shapiro has done her research rustling around in the archives but this is determinedly 'pop...
  • Sarah Swann
    This was middle of the road for me. I enjoyed 3 of the 6 stories and ended up having to DNF the last story about Helen Gurley Brown. I couldn't read anymore about how her mindframe was "be skinny, no matter the cost." I really enjoyed Eleanor Roosevelt's story and the one about Eva Braun was interesting, although I felt it was more about Hilter than about her. Overall it was an ok read for me.
  • Diane S ☔
    Review soon.
  • Brenda
    This is a book about what 6 women in history ate. Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of poet William Wordsworth, Rosa Lewis, a female chef in England, which was rare in her time, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun, Hitler's mistress until they married shortly before their suicides, and Barbara Pym, a British author, and Helen Gurly Brown. I only knew about 3/6 when I started the book. Don't know what I expected but I ended up disliking the 3 I knew about AND t...
  • J.M. Cornwell
    Laura Shapiro delves into lives of six famous women, many of whom are known to history even here in the 21st century. Beginning with Dorothy Wordsworth, the sister of the poet Wordsworth and their early lives together. Dorothy thinks more of her brother than of herself, reminding her brother when to eat and providing nutritious simple meals and then accompanying her brother on walks in the English countryside. There was a close relationship betwe...
  • Michelle
    This should have been such a great book! The concept was wonderful, but the writing style interfered with the story telling way too much. Also, the author seemed to keep losing the thread of where she was going with each story. She'd start in on the woman's story and then very mechanically, try to add something about food that seemed irrelevant and forced. She didn't actually have very much to say about food for several of the women even though s...
  • Katie/Doing Dewey
    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 th...
  • Lynne
    A somewhat dry look at an interesting topic. Worth a listen due to the historical aspect but not really about what the women ate. From a foodie perspective it’s a bit disappointing.
  • Anne
    I had a hard time getting through this book, and I'm not sure why. The author had a great idea for a book, and she wrote a fairly interesting book. However, the two were not the same. Perhaps if she had titled the book "What She Served" that would have been more accurate. Even in the Afterword, where the author discussed her life as a newly-married woman living in India, she was fixated on the food that she prepared for her husband. Her choice of...
  • Lara
    Interesting biographical perspective and an affectionate, intimate writing voice that makes the characters come to life. I applaud Eleanor Roosevelt for getting revenge on FDR three meals per day, Hollywood needs to make a biopic of Rosa Lewis, I need to read some Barbara Pym, and Helen Gurley Brown rhapsodizing over the 50-calorie "heaven!" that is a pan of sugar-free Jello topped with a spoonful of Dannon yogurt may be one of the saddest things...
  • Libby
    Oh what a hard review to write. I expected to love this book, especially after reading the excellent, even exciting, introduction. We were going to read about six fascinating women and their food stories, what they cooked, how they grocery shopped, what they ate! Always my favorite part of any story, real or fiction. Unfortunately each of the six stories were mini biographies which yes, did mention food, in some cases more than others. But many p...
  • Julie
    Genius! Biographies are tough as an author tries to get to the heart of who someone was. I've often said that if you want to know what someone believes of the world and their place in it, you could do worse than to look at their dinner plate. One's politics, religion, and self-worth are often served up there. My first impression of this book was that the author had an open way of writing. It was conversational without being unkempt. It felt like ...
  • Jo
    Interesting but hugely inconsistent. There was no thread that tied the women together, they seemed chosen totally at random. The section on Eva Braun was particularly random, weak, mostly about Hitler and failed to grapple with the huge issues at hand in a satisfying way. The section on Helen Gurley Brown was also weak, talking about food and dieting without reckoning with body image and American culture in any way seemed to me an odd choice. I l...
  • Bucket
    This is the sort of book -- micro-history-ish -- that I'm often excited about but ultimately disappointed by. Not the case here. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the author accomplished her premise. She sets out to bring insight to our understanding of six women through how they associated with food and, to my mind, she succeeds amazingly. The chapters hone in on food, but that perspective never feels too narrow.She made excellent choices a...
  • Elaine
    I almost didn't finish this book. Chapter one was dreary and depressing despite the author clearly hinting to a possible incestuous relationship between the topic of the chapter and her brother. The second chapter was a bit better and the third was significantly better and that pattern stayed true throughout the book.My main issue was the writing itself. I strongly feel the book is in need of a better editor. The chapters feel jumbled and while t...
  • Katie
    I loved the concept of this book, that we can learn about people through the food they eat, and how they interact with and talk or write about food. I wonder if food biography is a genre, not food memoir, but biography. I'd love to learn about more people through their food.
  • Alicia
    "Whether or not we spend time in a kitchen, whether or not we even care what's on the plate, we have a relationship with food that's launched when we're born and lasts until we die.""It turns out that our food stories don't always honor what's smartest and most dignified about us. More often they go straight to what's neediest.""Pursuing these women through their own writing, through their biographers, through the archives, pouncing on every clue...
  • K
    A pretty darn good little book about 6 wildly different women and their relationships with food. Shapiro manages to cover the important aspects of these women's lives while weaving her theme of food throughout. Interestingly, the afterword, where she reveals a bit of her own well examined thoughts on her role as wife/food preparer, is not to be skipped.
  • Sonya
    This was an okay read. I loved the premise but the book didn't live up to my expectations. There wasn't as much about food as I expected. It was more like short bios on six women, several of whom I had no knowledge of prior to reading the book.
  • Ashwini
    Laura Shapiro's "What She Ate" was my introduction to culinary history as a genre, and to a brand of feminism so timless that I kinda hate myself for not thinking about food as a legitimate angle to telling the stories of women, earlier. Hell! Everyone has a "food story". But historically, women have cooked, served and of course, eaten food for so much of their lives that you cannot tell their stories without talking about food.Biographers, accor...
  • cat
    You would think that this would be a slam dunk of a book for me. Six women's lives told through the food they prepared and ate? Hells to the yes. And I did enjoy most of the book - reading with far more interest than could have been anticipated about the ways that food detailed the life of Dorothy Wordsworth, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Lewis. I deducted an entire star for the chapter on Helen Gurley Brown (ugh), and really didn't think that the ...
  • Carly Friedman
    I really enjoyed Shapiro's investigation of these women's lives and the role of food in their experiences. Some of women I had heard of or knew a bit about and some were completely new to me, which was great. I really appreciated the sections that related what they ate to cultural and economic circumstances of the time and to their individual situations, personalities, jobs, friends and family. I do wish Shapiro had delved even deeper in the firs...
  • Kathy
    Maybe 2 1/2. It just wasn't that rivetting on the whole and I felt like the food was a stretch to connect the women. I agree there could be a "psychology" of food that could be really interesting, but she doesn't really explore that. Seemed there were a lot of irrelevancies. All I can say is that I likely would not have read a biography of any of these women, so I am glad to have had this fast peek at them, but that's all I got out of it.
  • Danae Hudlow
    I’m not much for writing book reviews, so this is probably breaking some rule, but I’m going to cut right to the chase: I adored this book. For a foodie, this book was pure joy. For a history lover, even more so. From the beginning, Shapiro piqued my interest with the assertion that “while extraordinary circumstances produce extraordinary women, food makes them recognizable.” Shapiro makes the case that the food eaten by her subjects, a g...
  • Stephanie
    What an inventive mind Laura Shapiro has! In "What She Ate" Shapiro takes us to six different cultures and times via six extraordinary women and what they cooked and consumed: Dorothy Wordsworth, 1771-1855; Rosa Lewis, 1867-1952; Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962; Eva Braun, 1912-1945; Barbara Pym, 1913-1980; Helen Gurley Brown, 1922-2012. The writing is so good and the research so stellar that it is hard not to simply fly through the chapters as if o...
  • Leah
    Six women, six approaches to food and diet. Two of these histories were quite sad--Dorothy Wordsworth and Eleanor Roosevelt--whose diets reflect the sense of betrayal they felt. For two of the women--Eva Braun (who was Frau Hitler for the last day of her life) and Helen Gurley Brown--what they ate (or didn't eat) was determined by their desire to stay slim to please their man, although Eva ate much better than Helen (I cannot imagine eating a big...