Arturo Toscanini hated fish. Ayn Rand despised salads. Britney Spears loathes meatloaf and “all lumpy stuff.” Secretary of State John Kerry cannot stand the taste of celery. Sigmund Freud harbored a lifelong dislike specifically for chicken and cauliflower. Virginia Woolf was plagued by food demons. So was Kafka, J.D. Salinger, and Orson Welles. Mark Twain, who traveled widely, disliked virtually every European food. Adolf Hitler hated meat and subsisted on gruel, linseed mush, muesli, and vegetarian soups. Alexander Theroux’s Einstein’s Beets is an astonishingly original and monumental study on this enigmatic subject — the world of food and food aversions. Theroux explicates the inexplicable, and often weird preoccupations of food aversions, unique among the thousands of books a year dealing with food. What more reveals what we are than food, the fuel by which we move, the resource by which we grow? Who dislikes what foods and why? Does memory play a role? Is sight involved? Smell? How about touch? Even hearing? What about grudges? Whim? The desperate need to assert oneself somewhere? What about circumstances, beyond that, where a person is revolted by simply watching someone else eat? In this all-encompassing book, the novelist and poet Theroux probes the secret and mysterious attitudes that have emerged from the deep via hundreds of people, mostly famous and well known, in the matter of eating and dining out, hilariously recounting tales of confrontation and scandalous alienation in a book composed of an explosion of gossip, misconduct, confession, embarrassment, and perceptive observations. In doing so, Theroux has penetrated a baffling, otherwise closed world of glaring food frights, phobias, and fixations.
"Alexander Theroux dazzles the mind. In Einstein’s Beets, his encyclopedic knowledge of eating habits and food aversions takes us from dishes, such as the chakalaka of South Africa and the casa marzu of Sardinia, to comparisons of the eating habits of Alexandre Dumas, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Brillat-Savarin and James Beard. Very opinionated, erudite and often funny, Theroux’s criticism can also be outrageous and lapidary. I learned a lot and agree with Thomas Edison that anyone who salts food before tasting it is not to be trusted." — Jacques Pepin