Cobra stew. Hallucinogenic root bark. KFC. These were favorite meals of some 20th-century dictators.
In "Dictators' Dinners: A Bad Taste Guide to Entertaining Tyrants," Victoria Clark and Melissa Scott offer astonishing insights into dictators' table manners, food vices, and fears of poisonings. They also include recipes for some of the meals.
We selected several ruthless leaders from the book and highlighted their favorite foods — and some of their horrifying dinnertime eccentricities.
Kim Jong Il loved shark-fin soup and dog-meat soup.
Foods of choice: Kim Jong Il's favorite foods were reportedly shark-fin soup, salo, and dog-meat soup, which he believed gave him immunity and virility. He was also said to be Hennessy's biggest customer.
He had a team of women make sure all the rice grains served to him were identical.
Kim Jong Il was the supreme leader of North Korea from 1994 to 2011. Under his rule, North Korea's grossly mismanaged economy sagged and its people suffered a famine.
Dinner etiquette: He reportedly had a sizable team of women make sure every single grain of rice that was served to him was identical in size, shape, and color.
Hitler was a vegetarian and by the end of his life ate only mashed potatoes and broth.
Foods of choice: Hitler's vegetarianism has been attributed to ideological reasons, but it also may have been motivated by his belief that a meatless diet would relieve his chronic flatulence and constipation. By the end of WWII, Hitler ate only mashed potatoes and clear broth.
Hitler had a team of 15 food tasters. If none of them dropped dead after 45 minutes, then the food would be considered OK to eat.
Hitler was the führer of Nazi Germany who forcefully occupied large chunks of Europe and North Africa during WWII. He sought to eliminate Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and others.
Dinner etiquette: Hitler was so paranoid of being poisoned by his food that he had a team of 15 food tasters. Only if none of them dropped dead after 45 minutes would the dictator eat.
Joseph Stalin loved traditional Georgian cuisine.
Foods of choice: Stalin was fond of traditional Georgian cuisine, which features walnuts, garlic, plums, pomegranates, and wines.
One of Stalin's personal chefs was Vladimir Putin's grandfather, Spiridon Putin.
US Government photo
Joseph Stalin led the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953. He forced quick industrialization and collectivization, which coincided with mass starvation, the Gulag labor camps, and the "Great Purge."
Dinner etiquette: He enjoyed power-play drinking games and elaborate six-hour dinners prepared by personal chefs, one of whom was Russian President Vladimir Putin's grandfather, Spiridon Putin.
Benito Mussolini loved garlic and thought French food was "worthless."
Foods of choice: Mussolini loved a simple salad of roughly chopped garlic drenched with oil and fresh lemon juice. He thought French food was "worthless."
Mussolini liked to eat at home with his family. Everyone had to be seated before his arrival.
Benito Mussolini founded and led Italy's Fascist Party from the 1920s, consolidating power and creating a totalitarian state. He allied with Hitler during the World War II, but was later removed from power and executed.
Dinner etiquette: Mussolini preferred to eat his meals at home with his wife, Rachele, and their five children. A typical meal in the Mussolini household was punctual, with everyone seated and served at the table before his arrival.
Idi Amin reportedly ate up to 40 oranges a day and enjoyed KFC while in exile in Saudi Arabia.
Foods of choice: Idi Amin loved roast goat, cassava, and millet bread. He reportedly ate as many as 40 oranges a day, believing they were "nature's Viagra." Later, when he was living in exile in Saudi Arabia, he reportedly loved to feast on pizza and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
For a while, Amin loved all things British, including afternoon tea.
Gen. Idi Amin overthrew an elected government in a military coup and declared himself president. He ruled ruthlessly for eight years, during which an estimated 300,000 civilians were massacred.
Dinner etiquette: For a while, Idi Amin loved all things British and reportedly enjoyed afternoon tea. There were also rumors of Amin being a cannibal.
Pol Pot liked cobra stew.
Foods of choice: Pol Pot enjoyed venison, wild boar, snake, fresh fruit, brandy, and Chinese wine. He also reportedly liked cobra stew.
He enjoyed luxurious meals while peasants were allowed only rice soup.
Pol Pot and his communist Khmer Rouge movement in Cambodia orchestrated a brutal, anti-intellectual "social engineering program" in which up to 2 million Cambodians were executed or overworked or starved to death.
Dinner etiquette: Pol Pot enjoyed luxurious meals while those suffering under his regime were allowed only water with a sprinkle of rice grains.
Nicolae Ceaușescu liked vegetarian lasagnas and simple salads.
Foods of choice: Ceaușescu liked vegetarian lasagna topped off with an egg beaten into sour cream, Romanian-style carp in aspic, and simple tomato, onion, and feta salads with steak.
Ceaușescu would throw the food served to him at formal events onto the floor and kick it as far as possible.
Nicolae Ceaușescu was the head of communist Romania from 1965 to 1989. In his repressive state, opposition and free speech were not tolerated. Secret police kept a close watch over internal goings-on.
Dinner etiquette: Ceaușescu notoriously avoided eating food that was not properly screened. He would throw the food served to him at formal events onto the floor and kick it as far as possible.
Francisco Macías Nguema liked tea made out of the female cannabis plant and root bark with hallucinogenic properties.
Foods of choice: He liked bhang, a tea made from the leaves of the female cannabis plant, and iboga, a root bark with hallucinogenic properties.
There were rumors Nguema was a cannibal who collected skulls in his fridge.
Francisco Macías Nguema, first president of Equatorial Guinea, killed and drove into exile somewhere between a one-third and two-thirds of his people (most of whom were intellectuals). Once he had 150 of his opponents killed by troops dressed as Santa Clauses to the accompaniment of "Those Were the Days." The country was nicknamed "The Dachau of Africa" during his reign.
Dinner etiquette: Not much is known. There were, however, rumors he was a cannibal who collected skulls in his refrigerator.
Haitian ruler François "Papa Doc" Duvalier's wife had to spoon-feed him by the end of his reign because of his many ailments.
Foods of choice: Nothing hearty.He was already diabetic and had heart problems and arthritis by the time he was in power in the late 1950s. By his last year, 1971, his wife had to spoon-feed him.
Duvalier's "idea of after-dinner entertainment involved a descent to a dungeon ... to watch through a spy-hole while his enemies were being tortured."
François "Papa Doc" Duvalier was a doctor turned politician, elected on the promise that he would help the country's poor black majority, who had been exploited for years. However, his rule quickly veered south as he installed secret police, and an estimated 30,000 people were shot, imprisoned, or tortured to death.
Dinner etiquette: "His idea of after-dinner entertainment involved a descent to a dungeon whose walls were painted a blood red, to watch through a spy-hole while his enemies were being tortured," according to Clark and Scott.
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