Book Talk: Mixing food and fame to cook up a book of trivia

Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:05am EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Most children know George H. W. Bush banned broccoli from the White House when he was U.S. president but not many people realize Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the first people to enjoy banana fritters soaked in rum.

Few people have probably bothered to calculate that opera singer Luciano Pavarotti lost and gained 5,000 pounds in his career or are aware that Elvis Presley never cut up his own food.

But for two journalist brothers, Matthew and Mark Jacob, food trifles of the famous became an obsession, leading to the newly released book, "What the Great Ate: A Curious History of Food and Fame," published by Three Rivers Press.

The U.S.-based Jacob brothers said they were fascinated by the fact that meals could change history with food blamed for the deaths of various kings, popes and other leaders.

Paying tribute to the importance of food, actress Sophia Loren once declared: "Everything you see I owe to spaghetti."

The brothers spent more than two years plowing through piles of biographies and other books to pull together a collection of the culinary likes, dislikes, habits and attitudes of the famous through history.

Matthew and Mark Jacob spoke to Reuters about food and fame:

Q: Why food trivia?   Continued...

<p>A plate of oysters is shown in Berlin April 15, 2008. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>