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How Eva Braun's Champagne-Soaked Fantasies Fueled A 'Make-Believe Morality'

A new book explores the lives of six women through food and Hitler's lover is a startling inclusion. But what she ate reflected a "perpetual enactment of her own daydream" against a barbaric backdrop.
Berlin, Germany: A candid photograph of Eva Braun with Adolf Hitler at the dining table. A new book explores the lives of six women through food, and Hitler's mistress is a startling inclusion. But what Braun ate reflected a "perpetual enactment of her own daydream" against a barbaric backdrop. Source: Bettmann/Getty

Laura Shapiro's new book, succinctly titled What She Ate, explores the lives of six very different women through the intimate and sensuous optic of food.

We learn about these women from their gustatory appetites and aversions. Why Eleanor Roosevelt, a deeply unhappy first lady, served the worst food in White House history, and why the otherwise iconoclastic Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown watched over her 105-pound figure with an anorexic angst. There is a profoundly moving profile of Dorothy Wordsworth, the classic unselfish spinster of English letters, who, after spending a life in service to her beloved brother, William, descended into an old age ravaged by dementia, obesity, and raging tantrums for butter; and a sympathetic one of Rosa Lewis, the cockney scullery maid who rose to become the king's favored cook, but whose lavish culinary style of gravy-soaked quail pies couldn't survive the First World War. An offbeat but delightful inclusion is the largely forgotten writer

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