How to Feed a Dictator: Saddam Hussein, IDI Amin, Enver Hoxha, Fidel Castro, and Pol Pot Through the Eyes of Their Cooks
Description"Amazing stories . . . Intimate portraits of how [these five ruthless leaders] were at home and at the table." --Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday Anthony Bourdain meets Kapuściński in this chilling look from within the kitchen at the appetites of five of the twentieth century's most infamous dictators, by the acclaimed author of Dancing Bears. What was Pol Pot eating while two million Cambodians were dying of hunger? Did Idi Amin really eat human flesh? And why was Fidel Castro obsessed with one particular cow? Traveling across four continents, from the ruins of Iraq to the savannahs of Kenya, Witold Szablowski tracked down the personal chefs of five dictators known for the oppression and massacre of their own citizens--Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Uganda's Idi Amin, Albania's Enver Hoxha, Cuba's Fidel Castro, and Cambodia's Pol Pot--and listened to their stories over sweet-and-sour soup, goat-meat pilaf, bottles of rum, and games of gin rummy. Dishy, deliciously readable, and dead serious, How to Feed a Dictator provides a knife's-edge view of life under tyranny.
April 28, 2020
5.1 X 7.7 X 0.8 inches | 0.45 pounds
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About the Author
Witold Szablowski is an award-winning Polish journalist and the author of Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny. When he was twenty-four he had a stint as a chef in Copenhagen, and at age twenty-five he became the youngest reporter at one of Poland's largest daily newspapers, where he covered international stories in countries including Cuba, South Africa, and Iceland, and won awards for his features on the problem of illegal immigrants flocking to the EU and the 1943 massacre of Poles in Ukraine. His book about Turkey, The Assassin from Apricot City, won two awards and was nominated for Poland's most prestigious literary prize. Szablowski lives in Warsaw.
"Lively . . . Szablowski . . . devoted three years to tracking down and personally interviewing the cooks . . . [and] provide[s] historical context for the worlds in which these tyrants operated and makes sure we remember how evil they were, even as we read about their fondness for grilled cheese with honey or refusal to eat dried elephant meat." --The Wall Street Journal "A piquant food travelogue with dimensions that are both comic and Faulknerian, with court intrigue and betrayal so sudden that the book may as well have been titled In the Kitchen With Machiavelli . . . [The] moral ambiguity . . . is both the fascination and the horror of the book. . . . Chilling." --Bloomberg "Fascinating." --Minneapolis Star Tribune "Food and history buffs will find these firsthand accounts irresistible. . . . Throughout, Szablowski entertains with disturbing rumors, such as [Idi] Amin eating human flesh (whatever the case, his chef never cooked it for him), and strange obsessions ([Fidel] Castro preferred the milk from a single cow named Ubre Blanca, or "white udder"). . . . These are the kinds of stories only a chef could know." --Publishers Weekly "Its originality and topicality in a world increasingly governed by political strongmen [are] intriguing. . . . The author shares intimate historical insights into the meaning of life under dictatorship." --Kirkus Reviews "Fascinating . . . A new perspective on horrible people . . . Interesting anecdotal revelations . . . The chefs' biographical narratives . . . present variations on the themes of rare opportunity, terrifying pressure, and lives permanently warped by proximity to power and cruelty." --Booklist "A quick read, but tense. I was surprised at how fast my pulse was going when reading." --Victoria Irwin, FangirlNation "An interesting combination of politics and food . . . It hit the spot." --Reading Envy "Unique and startling--an amazing book. Here's Abu Ali, describing the fish soup with tomatoes, almonds, and apricots that was Saddam Hussein's favorite. And here's Otonde Odera, reminiscing about the steak and kidney pie that won him a huge pay raise from Idi Amin. These accounts of killers at table, delivered in the cooks' own words and placed in historical context by Szablowski, are all the more hair-raising for Szablowski's matter-of-fact prose. He isn't writing about monsters, but monstrous human beings--and that's the scary part." --Laura Shapiro, author of What She Ate and Julia Child: A Life