If you start your morning with a hearty breakfast, you’re in good company. Many of the greatest politicians, artists, and scientists from history were fueled by the most important meal of the day. And as you can see from the list below, their tastes were far from boring.
1. Victor Hugo // Raw Eggs and Cold Coffee
During his years living in exile on the island of Guernsey, Victor Hugo found inspiration for some of his most influential novels, including Les Misérables. The French author adopted a consistent writing routine while residing on the island. After waking up at sunrise, Hugo would slurp down a breakfast of two raw eggs and a cold cup of coffee before getting to work.
2. Mahatma Gandhi // Porridge, Cocoa, and Goat's Milk
While Gandhi is most famous for fasting for long amounts of time, when he was living in London—several years before he began fasting—the civil rights leader started his day with a well-balanced meal. According to his journals he enjoyed a simple breakfast of porridge, goat's milk, and cocoa.
3. Albert Einstein // Fried Eggs, Honey, and Mushrooms
One of the most brilliant minds in history was fueled by a steady diet of eggs. In the book Einstein at Home, the physicist’s live-in housekeeper Herta Waldow recalled that "Herr Professor always ate fried eggs, at least two," almost every morning. At breakfast Einstein also enjoyed mushrooms ("He would probably have eaten mushrooms three times a day," according to Waldow) and honey. The latter was delivered to him by the pailful.
4. Walt Whitman // Oysters and Red Meat
Walt Whitman was notorious for indulging in a meat-heavy diet throughout his lifetime. Even first thing in the morning, the American poet was known to enjoy a protein-rich meal of oysters and red meat. This was prior to the Paleo diet, when Whitman's belief that rare beef was a health food capable of curing pimples was far from mainstream. His dietary habits were a point of concern for his writer friend John Burroughs, and in 1885 he wrote Whitman, saying:
“I am almost certain you eat too heartily and make too much blood and fat. […] If not the engine makes too much steam, things become clogged and congested and the whole economy of the system deranged.”
Burroughs recommended he limit his meat intake to a little bit once a day and replace his fatty breakfast with cereals and fruit. According to the biography Walt Whitman: Song of Himself, the writer largely shrugged off his friend's advice.
5. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart // Half a Capon
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart also had no trouble packing protein into his diet. Some of his favorite foods to eat included sturgeon, pork cutlets, and a Flemish beer-and-beef stew. The composer's carnivorous tendencies carried over into breakfast: In one letter to his wife, he wrote about having "just enjoying thoroughly my half of a capon which friend Primus has brought back with him" after waking up from a restful night’s sleep. Capons are hard to come by nowadays, but the large, neutered roosters were once considered a luxurious delicacy.
6. Winston Churchill // Eggs, Meat, Grapefruit, and Toast
British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill understood the importance of a filling breakfast. He requested his morning meal to be served to him on two trays: one with toast, jam, butter, coffee, milk, a poached egg, and cold chicken (or other meats), and another with grapefruit, a sugar bowl, a glass of orange squash, and a whiskey soda. He punctuated the feast with a morning cigar.
7. Jane Austen // Pound Cake and Tea
Jane Austen began breakfast at a relatively later time than many of her creative counterparts, waiting until around 10 a.m. to eat. The writer’s breakfast of choice was a moist, dense pound cake served with tea.
8. Claude Monet // Omelette aux Fines Herbes
Claude Monet’s appreciation for the finer things was evident in his diet. The painter grew his own produce, planned menus with the seasons, and kept food journals documenting his culinary habits. Before diving into his daily painting, Monet would sit down for an early breakfast of sausage, toast, jam, an herb omelet, and tea.
9. Queen Elizabeth I // Pottage, Ale, and Bread
Queen Elizabeth I started her days with a meal worthy of her royal title. For breakfast, the monarch ate fine bread, ale, and a pottage (or stew) made from meat like beef or mutton cooked with grains. The dish was usually flavored with succory, an herb that tastes like dandelions.
10. Thomas Edison // Apple Dumplings
Thomas Edison discovered his favorite breakfast food shortly after moving to New York. Broke and hungry, the 22-year-old wandered into a restaurant downtown looking to exchange a packet of tea for a hot apple dumpling and a cup of coffee. The humble meal was so satisfying to him at the time that it became his lifelong favorite dish.