Mussolini's Favorite Food Featured This Pungent Raw Ingredient

unsmiling Benito Mussolini
unsmiling Benito Mussolini - Bettmann/Getty Images

When foodies think about Italian salad, images of antipasti salad or even this reconstructed "salad pizza" with prosciutto might come to mind. But, one of the most well-known figures in the country's history called a simple chopped salad his most favorite dish -- a perhaps particularly surprising choice considering the tomato-cheese-olive-oil glory of countless other classic Italian dishes.

Although, this salad wasn't made with arugula or lettuce. According to "Dictators' Dinners: A Bad Taste Guide to Entertaining Tyrants" by Victoria Clark and Melissa Scott, Benito Mussolini's choice meal was a salad of chopped raw garlic with lots of freshly-squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. Italian cuisine is known for cooking with garlic, but the Italian dictator took this affinity to another level.

Mussolini rose to power during the 1920s as the leader of the Italian fascist party, seizing total dictatorship in January 1925. He declared French food "worthless," but also wasn't super interested in traditional Italian dishes, either. During the 1930s, Mussolini even joined forces with Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, founder of the Italian Futurist movement, in a symbolic campaign against pasta. In addition to copious amounts of raw garlic, Mussolini was also known to enjoy veal with savory, herbaceous marjoram grown in his home garden.

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Cloves of raw garlic
Cloves of raw garlic - Chrisboy2004/Getty Images

Benito Mussolini was a famous fan of home cooking, preferring to dine with his family over going out to fancy meals in restaurants. His ideal dinner was enjoyed with his wife, Rachele, and their five children and involved discussion of various topics. Everyone had to be at the table and ready to eat by the time Mussolini entered the room.

Also notably (and perhaps unsurprisingly), his favorite meal left the dictator with a pungent, lingering garlic smell. As Rachele once reportedly confided to the family's cook, via U.K. news outlet the Express, "He used to eat a whole bowl of it, I couldn't go anywhere near him after that. At night I'd leave him to sleep alone in our room and take refuge in one of the children's rooms."

A bowl of raw garlic could be markedly tough to digest as it can cause intestinal irritation and heartburn, among other issues. Perhaps it's even worse for a person under a pretty constant amount of heavy stress. Indeed, well into the Second World War, Mussolini fell into poor health and was examined by a doctor, who discovered the dictator was constipated to a severely unhealthy degree. He also fought a long battle with a lively abdominal ulcer. He reportedly also experienced significant hemorrhaging.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.