Iowa Alumni Magazine | December 2001 | People

All Things Great and Gross: James Solheim

By IAM Staff
Author James Solheim, 83MFA, has traveled the country from Miami to Seattle, speaking with schoolchildren about the fascinating and often bizarre foods he describes in his book, It's Disgusting and We Ate It! Food Facts from Around the World and Throughout History.

Growing older doesn't necessarily mean growing up—especially for author James Solheim, 83MFA, of Omaha. Solheim recently published his first children's book, It's Disgusting and We Ate It! Food Facts from Around the World and Throughout History (Simon & Schuster).

Blending fact, poetry, and illustration, the book challenges the fine line between edible and inedible, catering to the natural attraction among children to all things gross.

"Every kid is interested in disgusting," says Solheim.

The inspiration for his book dates back to elementary school. In fourth grade, Solheim heard that the body of an ancient woolly mammoth—frozen in glacial ice for thousands of years—had undergone virtually no decay and its meat was still fresh. Although he couldn't find anyone who had taste-tested the mammoth meat, Solheim's research for the book led him to an Alaskan scientist who had eaten the meat of a 36,000-year-old frozen bison.

Spiders, bugs, and dogs make up some of the other delicacies Solheim discovered across the seven continents. Solheim took more than two years to compile his deliciously disgusting facts, and he worked hard at presenting them in a way that would be enjoyable for children and adults alike.

"A children's nonfiction book should focus on the fun things," he says.

Solheim continues to work on poetry and fiction for adults, but he finds a special joy in writing for children. "I guess I'm still a kid at heart," he says.