Adriana E. Ramírez recommends an unusual culinary history

Critic at Large

Good nonfiction writers are able to use the smallest details to recreate entire lives. In “What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories,” Laura Shapiro uses food to illustrate the lives of six cultural and political figures: Dorothy Wordsworth, Rosa Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun, Barbara Pym and Helen Gurley Brown. Food is never “just food,” but instead offers insight into the life of mind of each woman, as well as into the exterior luxuries and hardships each faced. Dorothy Wordsworth (William’s sister) ate blood pudding one night, and Shapiro offers entertaining analysis on the significance of such a happening. Both a biography and a book of culinary history, “What She Ate” is charming, well-researched, and thoughtful. Food has never meant so much.

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