Paul Jacob

You’ll find many smorgasbords of history in What the Great Ate, but my brothers tell me that at events to promote the book they are often asked to talk about their own experiences with food, to offer up their own zany stories.

Mark has little trouble telling tales on Matt. He suggests that maybe Matt’s taste for exotic cuisines began when he was only a year old. One day we discovered the turtle missing and after 20 minutes of scouring the house to find him (or her?), someone glanced over at Matt. As Matt smiled, the back legs of the turtle popped out the sides of his mouth.

Unfortunately, Matt has few stories on Mark. Mark liked everything that was ever put on his plate. This made the rest of us look bad.

We younger siblings were a tad more discerning (picky). For instance, Matt, who loves Mexican food, can’t stand cheese. I, a red-blooded member of a family with fine Irish credentials, hated — of all things! — potatoes . . . unless deep-fried, of course.

Night after night as a kid, I’d look for my opportunity to sneak the small dollop of that awful white stuff, which my Father insisted be placed on my plate, over to the large mass of it on my older sister’s plate — without my Father seeing me do it.

Our entire family loved cereal. When we were teenagers, my Mother went on a health-nut kick. In came whole wheat breads and fruits and vegetables. Out went white bread and sugary cereals. So, at midnight on any given Friday night, as we returned to our humble abode, we would look for Matt. In hushed tones designed not to wake our parents, we’d ask Matt whether he “had the stuff.” Under his bed and in other hideaways, Matt was known to keep stocks of black-market items like Quisp and Cap’n Crunch.

But what about the great? Well, they seem to have the same array of strange tastes and eccentric behavior concerning food as do the rest of us.

Which reminds me that William Faulkner once turned down an invitation from First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to dine at the White House, commenting, “That’s a long way to go just to eat.”

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.