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The weird food obsessions of the 20th century's worst dictators

Hitler's chronic flatulence might have been the cause of his evangelical vegetarianism.
Hitler's chronic flatulence might have been the cause of his evangelical vegetarianism.
Elzbieta Sekowska/Shutterstock

The authors of a forthcoming book, Dictators' Dinners, take a fascinating look at the eccentric food preferences of the 20th century's worst tyrants.

Writing in the BBC, Victoria Clark and Melissa Scott give readers a taste of  the weird tales they collected:

Hitler's chronic flatulence may have accounted for his becoming a vegetarian and to his allowing a quack doctor named Theodore Morrell to dose him with as many 28 different medicines, including one made of extract of Bulgarian peasants' faeces.

On the other hand, famously flatulent Muammar Gaddafi seems to have been untroubled by his affliction. Midway through World War Two, a failing Mussolini was examined by a Nazi doctor who pronounced him dangerously constipated.

Mao Zedong, a passionate carnivore, was a lifelong martyr to his bowel movements: "I eat a lot and I excrete a lot," he happily reported in a letter to a comrade in his early days. Much later, on a visit to the USSR to meet Stalin, he would find to his fury that he could not excrete at all - the squatting type of toilet he was used to was unavailable in Moscow.

North Korea's Kim Il-sung, they write, would only eat individually selected rice grains, while the Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu sometimes avoided solid food, opting for raw vegetable juice sucked up through a straw.

Surprisingly, Stalin was an ardent picnicker, and Yugoslavia's Tito liked to munch on warm pig fat.

To learn more about the book, which arrives at the end of December, see  here.

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