Thomas Jefferson was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father. He also served as the third US president from 1801 to 1809. But did you know he was also a foodie?
Thomas Jefferson was a serious foodie who introduced waffles, mac and cheese, [armesan, olive oil, and champagne to America.
The Founding Father is Also a Founding Foodie
Yes, not only was the Founding Father a revolutionary, but he was also a Flaming Foodie who rarely ate alone. Friends, farmers, and politicians flocked to his octagonal-dome mansion in Charlottesville, Virginia. Fortunately, Jefferson enjoyed entertaining guests at Monticello and experimenting with new foods.
Thomas Jefferson is one of the most influential figures in American presidential history, having written the Declaration of Independence and commissioned the Louisiana Purchase. However, advancements in social and political freedom were only some of the things he made important during his two terms. Jefferson’s distinct taste is responsible for popularizing some of America’s most beloved foods, including ice cream, mac ‘n’ cheese, and even french fries.
Imagine this scenario. This is a very usual happening in Jefferson’s Household. When the 4 PM dinner bell rang, guests gathered in the dining room, where Jefferson was frequently seated and reading. Visitors were also in for a culinary treat and a lively discussion about Paris, travels, books, wine, philosophy, and democracy.
Jefferson brought parmesan cheese, olive oil, capers, anchovies, and dijon mustard from Italy. European ships delivered the finest vinegar, raisins, almonds, pistachios, figs, and vanilla to his Monticello kitchens. He even risked the death penalty in Italy in 1787 by smuggling a pocketful of rice to grow on his plantation. (Source: Good Food St. Louis)
What Was It Like Dining with the Foodie President?
Those who dined with Jefferson had varying reactions to his offerings, which ranged from 8 to 32 dishes. The meals were described as a sophisticated cuisine, served in half-Virginia style, half-French style by Daniel Webster, but Patrick Henry found the food too Frenchified for his tastes.
Dr. Manasseh Cutler, a botanist, minister, and ancestor, wrote about a strange dish of noodles he ate with Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis.
A pie called macaroni, which appeared to be a rich crust filled with strillions of onions, or shallots, which I took it to be, tasted very strong and not agreeable.Dr. Manasseh Cutler, Botanist
Despite his lavish entertainment, Jefferson enjoyed the simple fare of his fellow citizens: greens, corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, fried apples, and hot pieces of bread. He grew over 250 different vegetables and herbs in his garden, choosing them for the meat that most of his fellow citizens preferred. Even with his many culinary interests, it is said that Thomas Jefferson never went into the kitchen except to wind the clock. (Source: Good Food St. Louis)
Thomas Jefferson and French Fries
Jefferson returned to America from France with a recipe for Pommes de terre frites a cru en petites tranches, which translates to deep-fried potatoes in small cuttings. His notes from the President’s house may contain the first American reference to this now ubiquitous food. One of Jefferson’s relatives, Mary Randolph, included a recipe for fried potatoes in her historical cookbook, The Virginia House-Wife. The potatoes, despite their round shape, are otherwise nearly identical to what we call french fries. (Source: Good Food St. Louis)
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