10 Men Who Ate Anything And Everything
By Radu Alexander, Listverse, 10 August 2014.
By Radu Alexander, Listverse, 10 August 2014.
Many people have what we might call a healthy appetite, but as long as you can restrain yourself, there’s nothing wrong with indulging every now and again. However, these next characters didn’t even know the meaning of the word “restraint.” They gave into their greed and gluttony every chance they had.
10. Diamond Jim Brady
To sample life’s tastiest offerings, you need a fat wallet as well as a fat belly. James Buchanan Brady, the American railroad tycoon, fit that requirement perfectly. After amassing great wealth thanks to his rail supplies company, Brady became known for two things. One was his love of expensive jewellery (hence the name), and the other was his love of food.
Over the years, Brady’s appetite has attained almost mythological status. Just going through his breakfast menu, we have pancakes, muffins, grits, bread, eggs, chops, steaks, fried potatoes, and entire pitchers of orange juice. This would have been followed soon after by a light snack of several dozen clams until lunch. Here, Brady would eat more clams along with several lobsters, crabs, beef, and pie. There came another snack during the afternoon, followed by dinner, which was usually the biggest meal of the day: steak, a few dozen oysters, a dozen crabs, half a dozen lobsters, soup, and, for dessert, a few pounds of bonbons and a tray of pastries.
Books detailing his eating habits sometimes varied his menu but never the quantities. It is likely that his appetite has been exaggerated over the decades if only for the fact that it seems impossible for a man (or any other land mammal) to consume so much food. Even so, Jim’s appetite was certainly voracious. As New York restaurateur George Rector said of him, “He was the best 25 customers I ever had.”
9. Elvis Presley
Although Elvis might be remembered for his music, he was also quite the glutton. Anyone who remembers him in the later stage of his career will know just how great an effect all the years of food and drugs had on him.
Elvis always loved his fatty foods. His favourite was the famous peanut butter and banana sandwich, which was fried in butter for added taste (and calories). Most restaurants that serve this sandwich called it “the Elvis.”
One restaurant in Denver made a fancier version of the sandwich called “Fool’s Gold” using an entire Italian loaf, containing peanut butter, jelly, and a pound of bacon. It cost US$50 back in the 1970s. One night, Presley had a craving and took his entourage to his private jet. They flew from Memphis to Denver so Elvis could eat some “Fool’s Gold” to satisfy his hunger. The cost of this food run was reportedly somewhere around US$16,000.
8. Henry VIII
Arguably the most famous glutton in history, Henry VIII supposedly spent most of his time at the dinner table, occasionally taking a break between meals to rule over England and marry another wife. But is this fact or myth?
Actually, Henry did always like his food. However, when he was a young man, he was very active. He frequently engaged in hunting, jousting, dancing, and wrestling, so he managed to keep fit no matter how much he ate. However, his physique started going downhill after a jousting accident left him crippled and unable to exercise. Despite his new infirmity, his appetite did not diminish at all, so he ended up as the rotund ruler he is known as today. Supposedly, during his later years, he measured up to 1.4 meters (4.5 ft) at the waist.
To be fair, whenever Henry ate, so did everyone else in his court. He became very famous for throwing lavish dinner parties attended by hundreds of people. These parties got so big that the kitchen at the Hampton Court Palace had to be extended to fill 55 rooms. Henry’s kitchen staff comprised over 200 people, who prepared sumptuous 14-course meals for Henry and his dinner guests.
Elagabalus was one of the worst rulers ancient Rome ever saw. He ruled for only four years, between the ages of 14 and 18. Then the Senate, the people of Rome, and even his own Praetorian Guard had enough of him, assassinated him and his mother, and threw his body in the Tiber.
During his short reign, Elagabalus indulged in all of the excesses of the world, while finding new ways to infuriate Romans everywhere. He instituted the worship of a Syrian sun god, appointed himself high priest, and engaged in all kinds of depraved sexual behaviour. He enjoyed sex with men and women (mostly men) and dressed as a woman to fulfil his fantasies.
However, his lavish feasts truly showed how extravagant and gluttonous his tastes were. Elagabalus and his guests sat on silver beds while curly-haired boys fanned perfume in their direction. The menu included peacocks’ tongues, sows’ breasts with truffles, dormice baked in poppies, African snails, sea wolves, and live thrushes stuffed inside a cooked pig. Elagabalus also loved brains. An assortment of brains from various birds such as thrushes, peacocks, parakeets, and pheasants was present at every meal.
An 18th-century showman called Siderophagus (“the Eater of Iron”) had an amazing act. He claimed to be able to eat and digest any kind of iron presented to him. He encouraged people to bring to him keys, pokers, bolts, and whatever else they had.
Showbiz was in the family, and his wife often performed alongside him with a similar act. She was able to drink incredibly toxic liquids, specializing in aqua fortis. Like her husband, she encouraged people to bring their own concoctions of whatever strength they desired. Their show was quite popular, and the pair even had a special lighter version for the poor. They only charged half-price, and Siderophagus would consume small iron items such as wires and needles, while his wife drank weak liquors and wine.
It’s hard to say how much of their act was actually genuine. They never performed in the same city for very long. At the very least, his wife definitely never drank aqua fortis (or nitric acid, as we like to call it). It’s a highly corrosive acid, and she would have certainly died. However, their poor-version show where Siderophagus chewed on wire (and his wife basically just got drunk on stage) seems more plausible.
5. Francis Battalia
Francis Battalia would have been an average and unassuming person were it not for one very odd craving - stones.
In his time during the late 18th century, Battalia was quite the oddity. He attracted attention from medical professionals as well as other reputable sources who doubted Battalia’s claims until they went to see his show. There, they would see him swallow plates full of rocks and gravel. Afterward, he would shake violently so people could hear the stones rustling inside his stomach.
Advertisements for his show claimed that Battalia had his appetite for rocks ever since he was a little child, and his wet nurse used to mix pebbles into his gruel. This was most likely nonsense, but, as odd as it seemed, Battalia actually had some competition. Another performer simply known as the Stone Eater had a very similar act. He would take spoons full of pebbles and chew them loudly between his teeth.
As if that isn’t weird enough, an even stranger account is given by a doctor named Bulwer. To ensure that Battalia wasn’t a fraud, Bulwer spent 24 hours by his side to check whether Battalia really did eat stones. Besides confirming this notion, Bulwer also noted that Battalia’s waste was like a sandy substance similar to that of dissolved and crumbled stone.
4. M. Dufour
Not a lot is known about the Frenchman M. Dufour. He was a contemporary of Battalia and also turned his gluttony into a successful show. However, stones were usually not on his menu, which was a lot more varied and exotic.
His most famous performance came in 1792 at a special banquet held just for him, a packed house admiring his gastronomical prowess. He started out with a dish of asps boiled in oil served with a salad of pricks and thistles. However, these were just the hors d’oeuvres. They were soon followed by servings of bat, owl, rat, mole, and tortoise. For dessert, M. Dufour enjoyed a dish of toads mixed with spiders, caterpillars, flies, and crickets.
Normally, this would have been the end of the show, but on this occasion, M. Dufour decided to give his audience a rare encore. He swallowed all the candles sitting on the tables. Some of them were still lit, but Dufour solved this problem by quickly washing them down with some brandy.
3. Thomas Eclin
Thomas Eclin never achieved the success experienced by eaters such as Dufour or Battalia. He was actually described in his own day as being an imbecile Irishman who was, nevertheless, “remarkable for his vivacity and drollery in the low way.” He had much less ambition, and, being a drunk, he was satisfied as long as he had plenty of gin and tobacco. In order to feed his habit, he was willing to do more or less anything that attracted a paying crowd. Oftentimes, this meant eating a wide range of unpleasant things.
He specialized in eating live animals, cats in particular. However, if other financial opportunities presented themselves, he would take them without hesitation. One time, he jumped into the Thames in freezing weather.
2. The Great Eater Of Kent
Photo credit: Adusha/Wikimedia
With a name like that, you should expect great things from Nicholas Wood.
The 16th-century Englishman built quite a career on his gluttony. His skills made him famous all throughout England, and he often performed shows at private parties hosted by the country’s elite. Some of these parties were even dedicated completely to him. Famed poet John Taylor even wrote a poem about him titled “The Great Eater of Kent, or Part of the Admirable Teeth and Stomach Exploits of Nicholas Wood.”
At an event hosted by Sir Warham St. Ledger at Leeds Castle, Wood reportedly ate a dinner fit for eight men. At a party of Lord Wotton, he ate two dozen rabbits. John Taylor became aware of him when he saw the Great Eater devouring everything there was to eat at an inn in Kent. Thinking that he could make a fortune with a show like that, Taylor convinced Wood to come to London where he would attract huge crowds. Wood agreed initially, but when he arrived in London, he got cold feet. He had been embarrassed, tricked, and mocked in the past and he was worried that things would just get worse in London. He eventually disappeared without a trace, never to be heard from again.
1. Antoine Langulet
Everyone on this list had very ravenous and gluttonous appetites, but they all pale in comparison to 19th-century Frenchman Antoine Langulet. His preferred menu was so incredibly repulsive that it got him committed to an asylum for the criminally insane.
By his own admission, he was used to eating very disgusting things ever since he was a little boy. It wasn’t a matter of not having access to anything else. He actually enjoyed the taste. Rotten meat was his favourite, taken right off putrid and decomposing animal carcasses.
As an adult, he stayed locked inside during the daytime. At night, he roamed the streets of Paris looking for tasty morsels. He scavenged the sewers and gutters, retrieving offal and other filthy meat. He used his friendship with the Parisian horse knackers to secure food in the form of the sickly horses that they had to put down.
Although completely vile, Langulet could probably have avoided incarceration if he didn’t start looking for food in a new place - cemeteries. He refrained from doing so for as long as he could, but he eventually gave into his cravings and began digging up bodies. He would eat as much as he could on the spot (intestines were his favourite), stuff as much as he could into his pockets for later, and leave.
+ Erysichthon Of Thessaly
Erysichthon might have been a mythological Greek character, but an appetite so legendary deserves special attention. We know of his exploits from one of the greatest poets of ancient Rome, Ovid.
In his masterpiece Metamorphoses, we learn Erysichthon was a king of Thessaly who showed little regard for the gods. One day, he decided to cut down a forest belonging to Ceres, goddess of agriculture and fertility. In the middle of that forest was a sacred oak tree filled with strings of wool and wreaths of flowers as symbols of every prayer Ceres had granted.
Erysichthon commanded his men to chop down the tree, but they refused. He then grabbed an axe and cut it down himself. While doing this, he struck down a dryad by accident, and with her dying words, she uttered a curse. As punishment for his actions, Ceres commanded Famine to rest inside the king. Erysichthon soon started feeling a hunger which could not be satisfied no matter how much he ate.
Even though he was a rich king, Erysichthon soon found himself trading all of his possessions for food. When these were not enough, he even sold his daughter into slavery. However, it was no use. The hunger kept getting bigger and bigger. Erysichthon eventually met his demise at his own hands when he began to “tear at his limbs and gnaw them with his teeth, and the unhappy man fed, little by little, on his own body.”
Top gluttony image via blake snow.
[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]