Every child is taught that Napoleon Bonaparte was indisputably great at military campaigning; but we’re guessing your high-school history teacher didn’t school you on Napoleon’s obsession with roasted chicken.

The great military leader didn’t stick to regular mealtimes, instead choosing only to eat when hungry—but his meals always had to have bread and chicken. NPR’s Nina Martyris writes,

In the kitchens of his Tuileries Palace at Paris, chickens were constantly roasted on spits to suit his erratic hunger pangs. When he rode out of Cairo on Christmas Eve to survey the Suez isthmus, the only provisions he took were three roasted chickens wrapped in paper.

Bonaparte’s palace was the O.G. Zankou.


Smithsonian Magazine points out that Napoleon’s private secretary, Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, added a little more seasoning in his 1891 memoir:

“Napoleon was irregular and fast in his meals, and ate fast and ill…The moment appetite was felt it was necessary that it should be satisfied, and his establishment was so arranged that in all places and at all hours, chicken, cutlets, and coffee might be forthcoming at a word.”

France’s greatest warlord loved to eat with his fingers rather than a fork or spoon, and couldn’t possibly have cared less about drinking fine wine. But mess with his chickens and you were likely to get your carcass handed to you on a serving platter.

What about his Grande Armée? Unfortunately for them, Napoleon didn’t enjoy sharing his seemingly endless poultry supply. In fact, the army’s provisions supply system was so notoriously unreliable, PBS writes, that “soldiers learned by experience that marauding was often a more reliable source of food, horses and other provisions than the army’s supply system.”

And so Napoleon left his armies to scrounge for their meals while he sat in his palace sucking on poultry bones. But what about Bonaparte’s famous statement, “An army marches on its stomach”? According to NPR, there’s no record of him ever saying such a thing.

rotisserie chickens

[via Smithsonian Mag, NPR]