Sunday, 4 January 2009

What Famous People Ate

Some of us eat to live, others live to eat. However whether a person is unknown outside their own family or is the most famous person in the world, you can guarantee they will have their own individual likes and dislikes regarding food. Personally, I positively ADORE Scottish Shortbread, meat pies and moussaka. However I just cannot stand eggs, yogurt and pineapples. Tomatoes I like as a soup or as a sauce but not cold in a salad. Call me Mr Fussypotts if you like, but I'm not alone in liking some foodstuffs more than others. Here's a selection of the favourite dishes and eating habits of some famous historical figures. They are all taken from my book Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World.

Tiberius (42BC-37AD) The Roman Emperor Tiberius was a lover of pickles and grew cucumbers in carts; he got his slaves to wheel them around to catch the sun. and had cucumbers at his table throughout the year.

Nero (37-68AD) The Roman emperor Nero had leek soup served to him every day, as he believed the leek made his speech honeyed and thus gave him a clear and sonorous voice for delivering his orations. Due to his inordinate appetite for leeks some people nicknamed him “Porrophagus” (“porrum” meaning leek in Latin.)

Charlemagne (742-814) The Holy Roman Emperor was partial to cheese, especially Brie which he said was, "one of the most marvellous of foods." He insisted on having two mule loads of his favorite blue cheeses sent to his palace every Christmas. Charlemagne discovered blue cheese while on a tour of his territory, when at a stop at the priory of Rueil-en-Brie he was given some brie as a tithe.

Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) Despite his refusal to kill any animals, the founder of the Franciscan order was not a vegetarian. Francis was particularly partial to pig’s knuckles and chicken legs and marzipan. Occasionally he enjoyed a fancy pastry and on his deathbed asked a dear friend, Lady Jacob to bring him some almond cakes.

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) The Italian painter and engineer was such a fervent vegetarian that he was known to buy caged birds from poultry vendors and set them free.

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) The English Queen disliked gluttony and retained a reasonably slim figure throughout her life. Elizabeth's regular Breakfast was a biscuit and undercooked boiled beefsteaks. However in her old age her teeth had turned black through eating too many sweet things. Black teeth in the 16th century was a status symbol as sugar was very expensive, costing nine times as much as milk.

Galilei Galileo (1564-1642) The Italian scientist and mathematician was fond of good food. For treats his nun daughter Sister Marie made him marzipan shaped like little fish.

King Louis XIV (1638-1715) The French King had a passion for vegetables and fruit and his magnificent royal feasts always ended with marmalades and jellies served in silver dishes made from fruit grown in the king's own gardens and glasshouses. The fruit dish that Louis favoured was strawberries in wine. He also had a great liking for asparagus and he regularly received supplies of his favorite vegetable.
In addition the Sun King was addicted to aniseed lozenges to "sweeten his breath."

Peter the Great (1672-1725) The energetic Russian Czar generally ate simple food and had lousy table manners, he regularly trampled across the banquet table, treading on dishes and cutlery with his unwashed feet. However he laid on lavish banquets, modelled on the splendour of Versailles. The embroidered cloths, caviar from the Caspian Sea and oysters from the Baltic all matched the sumptuous feasts that King Louis XIV used to host. Peter preferred at banquets to be seated near the door so he could slip away early.

Frederick the Great (1712-1786) The Prussian King's favorite lunch was spiced soup, Russian beef in brandy, Italian maize with garlic and savoury eel pie.

Dr Johnson (1709-1784) The English writer and wit was a lover of good food. His favorite dish, which he took at the Cheshire Cheese inn off Fleet Street in London, was a vast pudding containing beefsteaks, kidneys, mushrooms, oysters and larks. He once claimed "There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”
Dr Johnson once said: "A cucumber should be well sliced and dressed with pepper & vinegar and then thrown out, as good for nothing."
He disliked fish as due to his poor eyesight he had to eat them with his fingers in order to locate the bones.

Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) The French Queen had a sweet tooth; she loved meringues, even making them with her own hands. Marie Antoinette was also partial to a pastille stuffed with chocolate paste.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) After serving as ambassador in Paris, Jefferson brought back with him to America ice cream which he delighted in serving to his guests. The statesman also introduced to the Americans the joys of fried potatoes after sampling them in Paris. He also served macaroni or spaghetti made by cutting rolled dough into strips, which were then rolled by hand into noodles.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) The French Emperor ate very rapidly; he never took more than 20 minutes to finish a meal, often eating with his fingers. He usually finished long before anyone else. Sometimes Napoleon ate in reverse order starting with a sweet and finishing with a starter.
The sweet toothed emperor was very fond of liquorice-indeed his teeth were almost permanently black from chewing it.

William Pitt (1759-1806) The British Prime Minister was very fond of veal pies. His last words before he died included, “I think I could eat one of Bellamy’s meat pies.”

Lord Byron (1788-1824) The English romantic poet was inclined to put on weight. Fearful of getting fat, for days on end he refused most dinner invitations. During this period all Byron ate were biscuits and soda water, chewing tobacco to keep his mind off hunger occasionally treating himself to a mixture of fish, greens, potatoes or rice drowned in vinegar. (Byron took vinegar to lessen his appetite). The poet adopted original slimming strategies; for instance he once played cricket in half-a-dozen waistcoats.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) The British novelist's wife, Kate, was a lavish cook. Dickens loved good food and was especially partial to "lamb chops breaded with plenty of ketchup."

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) The French chemist was not an adventurous eater. Every Thursday Pasteur consumed hot sausage garnished with red kidney beans, the other six days of the week he had a mutton cutlet with sauteed potatoes.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) The British Queen had an excessive liking for beef marrow, which she ate on toast for tea every day. Victoria also enjoyed roast beef and Yorkshire pudding followed by mind numbingly cold ice cream. The Queen decreed that only roast beef of mutton, followed by milk puddings were suitable fare for her children and grandchildren.

Thomas Edison (1847-1931) The American inventor believed in a good hearty breakfast to work upon but didn't eat much else apart from the occasional meal of sardines or lamb chops and vegetables. Most of the time his wife and children dined alone as Edison only ate when hungry. "A pound of food a day is all I need when I am working," he once said

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) In his later years, the Russian novelist became a strict vegetarian. He came to believe that meat was not a suitable diet for humans as it excited the mortal lusts and involved pain and death for animals. As a vegetarian, Tolstoy existed mainly on oatmeal porridge, bread and vegetable soup.

Edward VII (1841-1910) The British King was well known for his numerous extravagant court functions and his obesity. He faithfully recorded the height and weight of his guests after weekends at Sandringham to ensure they had eaten well.
Breakfast for Edward was eggs followed by large thick slices of bacon then fish (turbot, lobster or salmon) with finally steak or chops with a little game or poultry. He then has a ten-course lunch at 1.00 sharp. Dinner could be up to 12 courses. "Tum Tum" as he was nicknamed, especially enjoyed grilled oysters and peasant stuffed with snipe all washed down with champagne. He also loved small whitebait. One man had the job of picking out the tiniest fish of uniform size for the king.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) The Irish dramatist and wit was a vegetarian as "a man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses." He regularly frequented Cafe Royal, 68 Regent Street, London.
Shaw always ate small meals and after nearly 60 years of vegetarianism, he switched from a diet of macaroni with beans and lentils in soups and porridges to one with more fresh fruit and vegetables, which he said helped him healthwise.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) The vegetarian Indian leader would not even pluck fruit from a tree as he felt this was too violent a gesture. Gandhi relied on gathering fruit once it had fallen to the ground. At one time he reduced his daily food to four ingredients, wheat, vegetables, a little oil and fruit but increased his choices after becoming very ill.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) A vegetarian, in a book on diet, Hitler pencilled a marginal note: "Cows were meant to give milk, oxen for drawing loads." He lost his taste buds during a gas attack in the 1914-18 World War and as a result The Nazi leader adored spicy food. Hitler also had a passion for cream cakes and chocolate.

Richard Nixon (1913-1994) The American President was very fond of his wife’s home-made meatloaf and had a liking for the curious combination of cottage cheese and ketchup.

Elvis Presley (1935-1977) The King of Rock and Roll devoured vast amounts of
hamburgers and peanut butter and banana sandwiches. The last food Elvis ate was four scoops of ice cream and six chocolate chip cookies.

Bill Clinton (1946-) The former American President is well known for his fondness for junk food but he also absolutely adores spicy Indian dishes. The White House kitchen used to cook some for him and his wife Hilary at least once a week. Frequently when they had the opportunity to eat out during his time as President, the Clintons went to a local Indian restaurant for a chicken tandoori.

Tony Blair (1953-) All things to all men Tony Blair once told a Labour Party magazine that his favorite food was fish and chips and the upmarket Islington Cookbook that it is “fresh fettuccine garnished with olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and capers.”

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