For those of you who don’t know—and I didn’t—Barbara Pym was an English novelist, popular in the 1950s for her social comedies. She is the fifth woman Laura Shapiro discusses in What She Ate, and as such, this is the fifth post in my series about the nonfiction book about food.
Though her novels were not considered highbrow, they developed quite a following and have a beloved place in English culture. Pym wrote about relationships, about village life, and often about the church. She also included a lot of food in her writing, certainly mentioning the bad but more often celebrating the good of English cooking (when no one else was really talking about its positives).
Welcome to the fourth feature focusing on the women within What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories by Laura Shapiro. This time I’m talking about Eva Braun, one of the more notorious women Shapiro covers in the book.
For those of you who don’t know, Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress (and, at the very end, wife). While Hitler took precautions to appear unattached in public, in private, it was well-known that he was with Eva. She hosted many of the meals at Berghof, a Nazi party retreat in the Bavarian Alps. If you saw my review of The Taster, Berghof will be quite familiar to you.
Welcome to the third feature focusing on the women within What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories by Laura Shapiro. This time I’m talking about Eleanor Roosevelt, who was one of the reasons I was so excited to pick this book up in the first place.
Eleanor Roosevelt was longest serving First Lady of the United States, living in the White House with her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the Great Depression and World War II. She is remembered as an activist, a champion of women’s and African-American rights. Eleanor was a feminist who embraced domesticity, and in fact, a huge part of her legacy was the incorporation of home economics into education (though she herself didn’t do chores or cook meals).
Welcome to the second feature focusing on the women within What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories by Laura Shapiro. (If you missed the introduction and first feature, you can find it here.)
This time we’ll meet Rosa Lewis, a prominent English caterer. She was born in Essex in 1867, left school at the age of 12, and after starting in domestic service worked her way up to cook. Rosa had a strong Cockney accent, which she retained despite it being considered “insufferably vulgar” and offensive. Instead, it became her trademark. She commanded respect and her cooking even caught the attention of King Edward VII, which pushed her catering services into high demand.
As a lover of food memoirs, culinary news and food in general, Laura Shapiro’s nonfiction What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories has been on my TBR since it’s release two years ago. I have been meaning to do a review-recipe series on it for far too long, and that day has finally come! This post is the first in the series, so I’ll give a brief overview of the book before diving into the first woman’s story.
As the blurb says, “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.” Those of you who enjoy food memoirs like me know that, while food plays an important part in the storytelling, those memoirs are rarely just about food. They are about the human experience. So much insight can be drawn from not only what people eat, but how and why.