2013-05-09 / Columns


Since recently moving to North Dakota, I quickly learned about Prairie Public Radio’s interesting Sunday morning “Jefferson Hour,” impersonated by Clay Jenkinson. Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States, and is the one credited with introducing a French Chef to the White House.

Jefferson enjoyed an astounding and unusual range of interests, including architecture, agriculture, aeronautics, botany, ethnology, education, geography, geology, invention, language, literature, mathematics, medicine and surgery, music, politics, religion and zoology!Apparently he was involved in all of those in addition to being a Virginia planter, a Founding Father and writer of the Declaration of Independence, and, last but hardly least, a gastronomist!

Jefferson could be classified as a true Renaissance Man. If he had one flaw, it was his spelling and use of “its” and “it’s” which he regularly confused and had to be corrected in his writing of “The Declaration of Independence.”

Jefferson’s wife had died at an early age, and only two of their six children survived infancy. He was already a widower at the time he became President, so his daughter Martha served as Hostess for the various White House functions.

Prior to becoming President of the United States, Jefferson served as a Minister to France. It was in that position that gave him exposure to fine cuisine, enabling him to develop a taste for fine foods and wines, after sampling many different delicacies. Particularly interested in elaborate and intricate dishes, Jefferson is credited with introducing the pasta machine to America, while his French Chef introduced countless European recipes to the White House, among them pasta dishes, ice creams and French fries.

Thomas Jefferson’s mother was from a very prominent family, the Randolphs. One of the Randolph relatives, Mary, authored one of the first cookbooks, entitled “The Virginia Housewife.” A recipe from that collection is included below. One of her more unusual recipes was Oyster Ice Cream.

President Jefferson negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, sending Lewis and Clark on an expedition to explore the new land. Among their responsibilities was the gathering of seeds and cuttings of edible food plants. He also introduced the culture of olives and rice to the South. At his Monticello Estate, he kept a garden book in which he recorded plantings and harvesting of many different fruits and vegetables. It is said that he was aware of all the details of horticulture and became an arborist as well, as he was aware of the name of every tree and precisely where it was located on the grounds. He designed the Monticello Estate and the University of Virginia, which he founded.

4 Hard-boiled eggs
2 Tablespoons cold water
1/4 cup salad- or olive-oil
1/4 cup Tarragon vinegar
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
8 cups mixed greens (Lettuce, Endive, Chicory or other greens)
Slice the egg whites and set aside.

Combine egg yolks, water, oil, vinegar, mustard and sugar, mashing the yolks and combining them with above ingredients. Pour over greens tossed with sliced onion and the egg whites.

Note: Egg yolk mixture can be put in a blender or food processor.


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