Jefferson Had A Great Idea!


By Gini Rainey

We have a very important week ahead of us here in the United States.  Yes, most all of us have Tuesday off, but don’t for one moment forget why we have that day away from our usual grind.  July the Fourth, Independence Day, is the day we celebrate the beginning of our country with the signing of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago.  The Declaration of Independence was principally authored by Thomas Jefferson, who later moved on to serve as the third President of the United States.  No small figure in our nation’s history, Jefferson was truly a renaissance man who was active in politics, defending civil rights and freedom of religion, knew several foreign languages, negotiated for peace, and farmed his land in Virginia.

What a lot of people aren’t aware of was his love of good food.  While abroad he would collect recipes from some of the finest
chefs in Paris which he would mail back to Virginia to his granddaughter who would carefully copy them down, resulting in Jefferson’s personal one-of-a-kind cookbook.  Handed down for generations from mother to daughter it eventually came to Fanny M. Burke, his great-great granddaughter and was presented to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation shortly before her death.  Marie Kimball was granted permission by the Foundation to prepare it for publication and she fully adapted Thomas Jefferson’s Cook Book for practical modern use.  Originally published in 1938 by Garrett & Massie, this small cookbook is filled to the brim with interesting trivia and recipes from Jefferson’s day.

Dubbed the Epicure of Monticello, Jefferson’s cookbook contains recipes that he picked up in Paris, as well as some good home cooking recipes from Virginia.  It also has some very interesting information that was gleaned from the meticulous journals he kept that detail nearly every facet of his life.  When he retired to Monticello his daughter asked him how he wanted to live and his answer was he wanted to live like a plain country gentleman.  He quickly found that being the distinguished author of the Declaration of Independence and President of the United States had created quite a following and the visitors to Monticello were legion.

I can imagine that on a warm summer evening, as his grandchildren played on the lawn in front of the house, Jefferson probably sat back with a dish of ice cream made from one of his many gleaned recipes and reflected on the life he had led.  This is quite possibly the recipe used by his cooks, reduced to manageable proporstions. “First beat the yolks of 6 eggs until thick and lemon colored.  Add, gradually, 1 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil 1 quart of cream and pour slowly on the egg mixture.  Put in the top of a double boiler and when it thickens, remove and strain through a fine sieve into a bowl.  When cool, add 2 teaspoons of vanilla and freeze, as usual, with one part of salt to three parts of ice.  Place in a mould, pack in ice and salt for several hours.   For electric refrigerators, follow usual direction, but stir frequently.”  If you have an electric freezer, pop the mixture into it and let the freezer do all of the work.  What better way to celebrate the birth of our country than with a bowl of homemade ice cream?  Oh, and maybe some fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or peaches on top!  Yummo!]

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