What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories

Laura Shapiro

‘If you find the subject of food to be both vexing and transfixing, you’ll love What She AteElle

Did you know that Eleanor Roosevelt dished up Eggs Mexican (a concoction of rice, fried eggs, and bananas) in the White House?

Or that Helen Gurley Brown’s commitment to ‘having it all’ meant dining on supersized portions of diet gelatine?

In the irresistible What She Ate, Laura Shapiro examines the plates, recipe books and shopping trolleys of six extraordinary women, from Dorothy Wordsworth to Eva Braun.
Delving into diaries, newspaper articles, cook books and more, Shapiro casts a different light on the usual narratives of women’s lives. Finding meaning in every morsel, and looking through the lens of their attitudes towards food, she masterfully reveals the love and rage, desire and denial, need and pleasure, behind six remarkable appetites.

Reviews of What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories

    • ‘In this joyful examination of six women’s lives in food, Shapiro sets out to excavate the minutiae of domestic routines for insights into the connection between mental state and menu … Always entertaining and brimming with enticing small details, from an image of Roosevelt scrambling eggs at the table in a dinner-party performance piece, to Pym noticing that Philip Larkin refused Brie at lunch.’ Francesca Wade, Financial Times
    • ‘A bounteous and elegant feast for hungry minds’ BookList, (starred review)
    • ‘If you find the subject of food to be both vexing and transfixing, you’ll love What She Ate’ Elle
    • ‘What She Ate is a culinary and historical delight. Feast on it slowly so as not to miss a crumb’ BookPage
    • ‘I devoured the book in one sitting’ Washington Post
    • ‘Fascinating’ Wall Street Journal
    • ‘A deliciously satisfying read’ Chicago Tribune
    • ‘Fascinating. Shapiro, like a consummate maître d’, sets down plate after plate and an amazing thing happens: Slowly the more familiar accounts of each of the women’s lives recede and other, messier narratives emerge. How lucky for us readers that Shapiro has been listening so perceptively for decades to the language of food.’ NPR
    • ‘A collection of deft portraits in which food supplies an added facet to the whole.What She Ate redeems the whole sentimental, self-indulgent genre of food writing’ Slate
    • ‘A unique and delectable work’ Kirkus
    • ‘What She Ate establishes Laura Shapiro as the founder of a delectable new literary genre: the culinary biography. A richly satisfying volume’ Megan Marshall
    • ‘I wolfed down this wonderful account of the eating lives and habits of six notable and very diverse women … Shapiro … writes both engagingly and a trifle wryly’ Bookseller
    • ‘Riveting. Shapiro reveals with wit and irony so much that is fascinating and unknown. What She Ate is both menu degustation and grand banquet’ Claudia Roden