“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson
Although best remembered as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States (1801-1809), Thomas Jefferson also had a storied diplomatic career. He served as the minister to France during the crucial years following the Revolutionary War, from 1785 to 1789. It was during his time residing in Europe that Jefferson was introduced to and developed a real passion for fine cuisine. You could say that he was one of the original foodies!
Jefferson is credited with introducing and popularizing several foods that remain popular in American cuisine even today. This list illustrates the culinary impact of one of our original founding fathers.
It’s believed that Jefferson was introduced to ice cream during his diplomatic posting in France. When he returned home, he brought recipes and an ice cream freezer to ensure he could enjoy his new favorite dessert for the rest of his life. As president, he served ice cream at formal dinners on at least six occasions. Jefferson’s handwritten ice cream recipe is a part of the collection in the Library of Congress.
Macaroni and Cheese
Though Jefferson wasn’t the first person in America to serve macaroni and cheese, he is credited with popularizing it. This is another dish that he discovered during his time in France. He first served macaroni and cheese at a state dinner in 1802. What we’ve come to consider comfort food, soon became the fashionable food of the day.
Thomas Jefferson also brought back a French recipe for “pommes de terre frites à cru en petites tranches (potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small cuttings).” Despite Jefferson’s enthusiasm for the deep-fried potatoes (cut into rounds, not sticks), they didn’t gain popularity until the 1900s. His recipe predates cookbook recipes for French fries by half a century.
Jefferson loved Parmesan cheese so much that he wanted to replicate the production process in America. Ultimately, he decided it was impossible to recreate the flavors in the cheese since it was made from the milk of Italian cows. Instead, he had many wheels of Parmesan imported for his own personal use.
On a trip to Holland, Jefferson sampled waffles for the first time and was so pleased he immediately bought a waffle iron.
After sampling some of France’s finest champagne, Thomas Jefferson insisted on serving the beverage at most formal dinners he hosted. He was such an avid fan, that he kept a corkscrew in the same carrying case as his toothbrush.
Champagne wasn’t the only wine appreciated by Jefferson. He regularly drank one to four glasses of wine a day. He ordered wines by the barrel from all corners of Europe, racking up a wine bill that exceeded $10,000 (over $212,000 in today’s currency) during his eight-year presidency.
This is a classroom-friendly version of Thomas Jefferson’s Macaroni and Cheese. Hope your students enjoy making and eating it!
Macaroni and Cheese
3/4 cup elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons margarine
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup cubed American cheese
- Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain.
- To make cheese sauce, in a saucepan melt margarine over medium-high heat.
- Stir in flour, salt and pepper to make a smooth roux.
- Add milk all at once; stirring constantly, cook 1 to 2 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add cubed cheese; stir until melted.
- Gently stir cooked macaroni into cheese sauce. Turn into lightly greased 1-quart casserole.
- Bake in a 350° oven 30 to 35 minutes or till heated through and lightly browned.
Yield: 4 servings
More Presidential Palates tomorrow! You’ll find many more activities, recipes and FACS-friendly historical facts in our resource, Historical FACS.