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Jeff Houck

The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.

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What Marilyn Monroe Ate [No Olives For Norma Jeane]

Posted Aug 6, 2012 by Jeff Houck

Updated Aug 6, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Marilyn Monroe eating a hamburger


I’ll admit that I have sort of an odd fascination with what celebrities eat.

I’ve rationalized it before as a curiosity built on the foundation that seeing a famous person eating somehow humanizes them and gives fans a common bond with their favorite stars. A photo of a Kardashian or a Snookie coming out of a Starbucks? Ho hum. Seeing Gene Simmons in full demon regalia in the craft services buffet line at a Kiss concert? That’s like manna from heaven to me.

In reality, I’m just a food voyeur. Plain and simple. What people choose to enjoy and why they choose to do so is just fascinating to me. Fame is just sprinkles on the cupcake.

So it makes sense that on the week of the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe‘s death, questions about what she ate and drank would arise.

Apparently, I’m not alone.

On this site, a British fan explores her occasional diets, her favorite stuffing recipe (complete with a hand-written copy), and suggests a blond cocktail in her honor.

The anniversary also has spawned discussion about her body type, her eating disorders and how 50 years later, she would have been considered borderline obese by modern, bone-thin Hollywood starlet standards.

At 5 feet 5½  inches, Marilyn veered from 8½ st to just under 10 st. Today’s stars seek to remain child-sized (Victoria Beckham can famously slip into jeans designed to fit a seven-year-old, with a 23in waist).
In these pictures, Monroe glows with radiant health like a goddess, while modern pin-ups, with sharp hipbones and corrugated ribs, seem sapped of all vitality.

But, then, Marilyn was also a product of the post-war era in which she grew up. Mercifully few Westerners go hungry through poverty now, yet more of us starve ourselves to conform to some perverse bodily ideal.

Norma Jeane Baker, as she was then, grew up so impoverished that there was rarely enough food on the table, and her robust approach to eating reflected a desire never to be hungry again.

‘Frankly, I’ve never considered my figure so exceptional. My biggest single concern used to be getting enough to eat,’ she remarks in the book.

The words appear next to a photograph that shows her propped up in bed, fixing breakfast while naked between the sheets, presumably adorned in nothing more than a spritz of Chanel No 5.

Today’s warped female role models associate hunger with power rather than poverty. Kate Moss notoriously announced that her motto is ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’. And even purportedly healthy celebrities such as Beyoncé and Gwyneth Paltrow torture themselves with maple syrup diets and punishing juice fasts.

On the Tumblr blog Missing Marilyn, there’s a fascinating list culled from the comprehensive pages of “The Marilyn Encyclopedia” of what she enjoyed eating during various parts of her life.

Marilyn Monroe in bed with milk



During the modeling years:Raw hamburgers, peanut butter, hot dogs, chili, crackers

Typical breakfast, 1951: Warm milk, two raw eggs, a dash of sherry

Typical dinner, 1951: Broiled steak, lamb chop or liver, raw carrots

On first date with Joe DiMaggio: Anchovies on pimento, spaghetti al dente, scallopini of veal

Marilyn Monroe sundaeFor her 1952 birthday dinner at the Bel-Air Hotel: Steak

Favorite appetizer circa 1952: Tiny tomatoes stuffed with cream cheese and caviar

While filming “River of No Return,” 1953: Lobster

For her DiMaggio wedding dinner: Steak, cooked medium-well

While in Korea: Cheese sandwiches

At the Romanoff’s party in her honor: Chateaubriand

While filming “Bus Stop,” 1956: Raw steaks

Typical breakfast, 1957: Three poached eggs, toast, a Bloody Mary

Typical lunch at the Roxbury farm, 1957: Salami and cheese sandwiches

What maid and confident Lena Pepitone cooked for Marilyn: Spaghetti, lasagna, sausages, peppers

On New Year’s Eve, 1960: Spaghetti with sweet Italian sausages

While filming “The Misfits,” 1960: Buttermilk, borscht

Typical breakfast, 1961: Egg whites, poached in safflower oil (Marilyn had Eunice Murray regularly save the egg yolks to use in the holiday pound cakes.)

Typical breakfast, 1962: Hard-boiled eggs, toast

Typical lunch, 1962: A broiled steak

Favorite Italian dinner, 1962: Fettucini Leon and veal piccata

Favorite snack when not dieting: Hot dogs

On a 1962 picnic in the backseat of her Cadillac: Cold steak sandwiches

What Marilyn especially disliked: Olives

The last breakfast, on August 3, 1962: A grapefruit

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