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Connecting the stars and their stomachs

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Dining with the Famous and Infamous' combines celebrity stories, recipes

We love knowing things about famous people. And the more we know, the more we want to know. Entire cottage industries have sprung up around the notion that as a culture, we very much want to find out everything we can with regards to the private lives of the celebrated.

But in a unique and interesting peek behind the celebrity curtain, Fiona Ross offers up a look at one of the most revealing aspects of anyone's true life what they liked to eat.

'Dining with the Famous and Infamous' (Rowman & Littlefield; $38) is a kind of cookbook to the stars, featuring numerous food-centric anecdotes about artists, musicians, movie stars and others from the entertainment realm. This might seem like a significant limitation, but Ross manages to cook up some pretty good stories about some VERY famous people.

However, this book isn't just about telling you what these beloved (and not-so-beloved) figures ate it's about telling you how to make it for yourself.

Every section of the book contains at least one detailed recipe often more for a dish or drink that is discussed in-depth in its respective story. And we're talking a wide range of famous people here figures from the worlds of cinema and music and literature and art and while the stories range a little bit, the central conceit is always food.

The book is broken up into sections you've got Artists, which features Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Van Gogh and Picasso among others (including some super-weird Salvador Dali stuff); Movie Stars, which includes notables such as Laurel and Hardy, Liz Taylor, John Wayne and Woody Allen; Musicians, which takes a look at Sinatra and Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Michael Jackson; and Writers, which offers up Hemingway and Steinbeck and Orwell and some rather salacious Salinger tidbits as well.

In closing, we get a section named 'Finally, the Nuts,' which includes a handful of rather bizarre historical figures and their food relationships famed libertine Casanova, noted astrologer Sybil Leek, weirdo occultist Aleister Crowley and - of course - everybody's favorite seer Nostradamus.

So whether we're talking about the adolescent eating habits of the Beatles or the quiet meals shared between Bogey and Bacall, 'Dining with the Famous and Infamous' offers you an opportunity to eat those same foods. The book presents an opportunity for you to connect with these stars in a very visceral way through the stomach.

While one could argue that neither the anecdotes nor the recipes alone could stand on their own, there's no doubt that together, they are an intriguing reading experience. As you might expect, some sections prove more engaging than others personal taste, in terms of both the celebrities and the food, is going to play a significant role. Also, there are places where the stories feel a bit thin and/or strained, suffering in comparison to the more robust offerings.

We all have to eat; it's one of those universalities that connect everybody. What 'Dining with the Famous and Infamous' does is give that connection specificity there's something oddly compelling about knowing what food likes (and dislikes) you might share with a movie star or a literary icon. Fans of celebrity culture and/or cookbooks will find plenty to like here.

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 19:58


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