10 Breakfasts Enjoyed by History’s Most Productive People

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

Victor Hugo
Henry Guttmann Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

Mahatma Gandhi
Fox Photos/Getty Images

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

Albert Einstein
Keystone/Getty Images

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
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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
Barbara Kraft, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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

Winston Churchill
Fox Photos/Getty Images

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
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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
National Portrait Gallery, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain in the United States

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
Central Press/Getty Images

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.

10 Delicious Facts About McDonald's Shamrock Shake

McDonald's
McDonald's

Many people overdo it with the drinking on St. Patrick's Day, but it's not always Guinness or Jameson that gets them into trouble. Sometimes it's the Shamrock Shake, McDonald's uniquely green and often elusive seasonal treat. Here’s the skinny on the 660-calorie indulgence.

1. The Shamrock Shake wasn't originally known as The Shamrock Shake.

The original name of the cult classic milkshake was slightly less alliterative. It was called the St. Patrick’s Day Green Milkshake. Catchy, no?

2. The Shamrock Shake is a charitable endeavor.

What does the Shamrock Shake have to do with the Ronald McDonald House and the Philadelphia Eagles? Everything, according to the fast food giant. When Eagles tight end Fred Hill’s daughter was being treated for leukemia in 1974, Fred and his wife spent a lot of time in waiting rooms and noticed many other emotionally depleted families doing the same. He thought it would be healthier for families if they had a place to call home while their children were being treated, so he used his football connections to get in touch with a local advertising agency that did work for Mickey D’s. They agreed to give profits from the Shamrock Shake toward a home near the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, which ended up becoming the first-ever Ronald McDonald House.

3. Uncle O'Grimacey used to be the Shamrock Shake's ambassador.

Back in the early ‘80s, a fairly offensive character named Uncle O’Grimacey was used to promote the seasonal shake.

4. No McDonald's restaurant is required to offer the Shamrock Shake.

In 2012, it was announced that, for the first time, the Shamrock Shake would be available in all McDonald's nationwide—but not all restaurants have to carry them. Regional managers decide whether their stores will carry the shakes each year.

5. Jimmy Fallon once depleted a New York City restaurant's entire Shamrock Shake supply.

If you’re a New Yorker and you didn’t get a much-craved Shamrock Shake in 2011, it’s probably Jimmy Fallon’s fault. When he caught wind that a Union Square Mickey D's had the elusive dessert, he totally cleaned them out—purchasing more than 100 shakes for his audience. New Yorkers were not pleased with Fallon.

6. The Shamrock Shake got an ice cream offshoot (that didn't fare so well).

Despite the smashing success of the shake, the Shamrock Sundae was a dismal failure. Introduced in 1980, it was discontinued after just a year. Apparently people prefer their unnaturally green desserts in shake form as opposed to scoop form. Though this year, they're trying again: in honor of the Shamrock Shake's 50th anniversary, McDonald's is also introducing an Oreo Shamrock McFlurry.

7. There have been many super-sized versions of the Shamrock Shake.

For a few years, a giant shake was poured into the Chicago River to help contribute to the green hue it’s dyed every year. A donation was also made to the Ronald McDonald House.

8. The McDonald's app will help you track down a Shamrock Shake.

Are you one of those unfortunate souls who has to hunt the shake down every year? McDonald's official app can help. In 2020, for the first time in three years, the Shamrock Shake will be offered at all McDonald's locations. If you're not sure of the nearest one near you, the McDonald's app has a full directory to help.

9. You can make your own Shamrock Shake at home.

If you still can’t find a shake, you have one other option: make your own.

10. In 2017, McDonald's engineered a special Shamrock Shake straw.

In 2017, McDonald's unveiled an amazing innovation for Shamrock Shake lovers: the STRAW. Short for Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal, the STRAW was designed by real engineers at the aerospace and robotics engineering firms JACE and NK Labs—specifically with the Shamrock Shake in mind. What sets the device apart from conventional straws is the sharp bend in its shape and the three, eye-shaped holes in addition to the opening at the bottom end. The extra holes are positioned in a way that allows drinkers to take a sip of a new layered version of the frosty treat that’s equal parts top mint layer and bottom chocolate layer.

Wales Is Home to the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence

Baked Bean Museum of Excellence
Baked Bean Museum of Excellence

If you don't think it's possible to get excited about beans, you've clearly never been to the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence in Port Talbot, Wales. The site is filled with memorabilia celebrating canned baked beans, but the legume-loving "superhero" in charge of it all may be the most intriguing attraction.

Before legally changing his name to "Captain Beany" in 1991, the owner of the Baked Bean Museum was a Welsh man named Barry Kirk, according to Atlas Obscura. He was born in 1954 and spent the early part of his adulthood working in the computer department of a British petroleum plant in South Wales.

But his life took a much different direction in 1986 when he broke the world record for longest time in a baked bean bath at 100 hours. He fully adopted his Captain Beany persona five years later and began painting his face and head orange. He also started dressing in a gold-and-orange superhero costume. Since then, he's raised nearly $130,000 for charity by performing various bean-related stunts like pushing a can of beans along the beach with his nose. His biggest claim to fame, though, is his Baked Bean Museum, which he opened in his two-bedroom council flat in 2009.

Baked Bean Museum of Excellence.
Baked Bean Museum of Excellence

Visit Captain Beany's home and you'll find more baked bean swag than most people see in a lifetime. His lavatory has been transformed into the "Branston Bathroom," with the British product's logo embellishing every surface, and the kitchen is all about Heinz. The museum also features vintage advertisements, collectible cans, and knick-knacks like a pair of baked bean cufflinks. And if you ever start to feel overwhelmed, Captain Beany will be there as your personal guide in one of his tomato-sauce-orange outfits.

Baked Bean Museum of Excellence.
Baked Bean Museum of Excellence

The Baked Bean Museum of Excellence is technically free to enter, but Captain Beany does accept donations that he gives to charity. You can visit the Port Talbot institution from Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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