Food & Drink

The bizarre eating habits of 5 notorious dictators

While you probably fell asleep a minimum of nine times in Mr. Tanner's class, history doesn't have to be boring. We already uncovered some ridiculous drinking stories about US presidents through Mark Will-Weber's tome, and now a new book is shedding light on the weird diets of infamous tyrants. Dictators' Dinners: A Bad Taste Guide to Entertaining Tyrants looks at the eating and drinking habits of guys like Joseph Stalin, Sadaam Hussein, and Adolf Hitler, and it proves once again that these guys were more than a little messed up in the head. You can read all the stories for yourself in Victoria Clark and Melissa Scott's book, but for now, here are five of the oddest examples:

1. Mussolini wrote a poem about bread

Many men have written an embarrassing poem in the name of love, only their subjects are usually human. Benito Mussolini instead chose to pen a tender ode to bread in 1928. Throughout the poem, he calls it the "jewel of the hearth", "God's sweetest gift", and even the "holiest reward of human fatigue". While this was all ostensibly a ploy to get wheat production up, we wouldn't be surprised if archaeologists later uncover a whole diary of discarded sonnets to ciabatta and focaccia.

2. Amin ate 40 oranges a day

Idi Amin was a deeply weird person in many respects. He thought he was Scottish, he might've dabbled in cannibalism, and he once asked Queen Elizabeth II to send him her "25-year-old knickers". But he also had an odd fixation with oranges, eating up to 40 in a single day. He apparently did this because he considered them "nature's Viagra", and considering how many children he had, the guy might've actually had a point. Though he also served bee larvae and flying ants at state dinners, so maybe don't give him too much credit.

3. Stalin made heads of state play drinking games with him

Nikita Khrushchev once claimed, "I don't think there has ever been a leader of comparable responsibilities who wasted more time than Stalin did just sitting around the dinner table eating and drinking." And if the six-hour dinners Stalin regularly hosted are any indication, this was a fair assessment. In between stuffing his face with food prepared by Putin's Grandpa Spiridon, Stalin liked to pressure his VIP guests into playing drinking games, especially his favorite, Guess the Temperature. ("Cold" is always a safe bet.) The games were apparently intense -- Yugoslavian dictator Tito puked on his sleeve and Khrushchev himself wet his bed at different "dinners" hosted by the Russian tyrant.

4. Castro was very particular about pumpkin seeds

When they manage to squeeze in quality time with their kids, most parents read Dr. Seuss books or attempt to fly a kite. Not Fidel Castro. According to his daughter, the guy was so obsessed with food preparation when she was growing up that he spent one of their few moments together educating her on proper pumpkin seed roasting. (You're supposed to grill them "on a slow flame until the shells almost come off by themselves", FYI.) We guess that's a marketable skill, though she was probably more into eating PB&J than jack-o'-lantern guts.

5. Jong-il had insane rice requirements

The eccentric to beat, Kim Jong-il didn't disappoint in the culinary department, even when it came to something as mundane as rice. Jong-il employed a whole team of women to inspect every grain of rice he ate for uniform size, shape, and color -- and even after that initial test, he wouldn't eat any of the rice unless it was cooked over a fire using trees cut from a specific mountain peak near the border to China. On another note, he was rumored to be Hennessy's best customer, providing yet another similarity between Jong-il and Tupac Shakur.

Kristin Hunt is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist. She's never written a poem about bread, but she has written one about Nicolas Cage. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.