13 April 2011

The Sage of Monticello and A Few Other Seasonings

(April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826)

"I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
  • John F. Kennedy Address at a White House dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners (29 April 1962)

Thomas Jefferson was a true renaissance man known as an inventor, expert in law, politics, architecture, philosophy, and writing. Many know him most commonly as the third president of the United States but his most important accomplishments came outside of the presidency. Jefferson was a primary founding father and known to have written the Declaration of Independence.

Born in 1743 in Shadwell, Virginia, Jefferson was the third president of the United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. He began his political career in 1769 in the Virginia House of Burgesses (legislature). Forty years later, he retired as president of the United States. He died on July 4, 1826, at Monticello, his home in Virginia. Jefferson once said, “All my wishes end where I hope my days will end—Monticello.”

The following is from Monticello Explorer where you can tour the various rooms of Jefferson's home.

Monticello's Kitchen showing stew stove, work table, and hearth

Monticello's kitchen was among the best equipped in Virginia. While serving as U.S. Minister to France, Jefferson purchased a large number of cooking utensils for his residence in Paris. In the early 1790s, as part of an 86-crate shipment of goods, he had them shipped back to America and eventually to Monticello. While the cellar of the South Pavilion housed Monticello's first, relatively small kitchen, a second kitchen was constructed during the expansion of the house. Completed by 1809, the newer, much larger work space featured a bake oven, a fireplace, and an eight-opening stew stove with integrated set kettle. A tall case clock also stood in the kitchen: Isaac Jefferson, one of Monticello's former slaves, recalled that the only time Jefferson went into the kitchen was to wind the clock.

If you would like to dine with Jefferson, there are  wonderful cookbooks available featuring many of the recipes that might have been served at Monticello since they were preserved in cookbooks of others who were raised or dined there.  These books are available through the Monticello Gift Shop and go to support the monument, so you dine well and feel really good about it.

You might want to look up a more precise recipe for Blancmange (Almond Cream), but the Jefferson  recipe is below:

 "4 ounces sweet almonds with 5 or 6 bitter almonds; pour boiling water on them to take off the skin. Put them in a mortar and beat them with a little cream. Take them out of the mortar and liquefy them with cream, little by little stirring them; 4 ounces of sugar to be put in. Have ready some isinglass [gelatin], say 1 oz dissolved in boiling water, and pour it into the preceding mixture, stirring them well together. Strain it thro' a napkin, put it into a mould, and it is done."


Linda said...

My librarian cousin Amy and I took a tour of Monticello back in May of 2001 when we were doing our "Battlefield Tour" vacation and we were fortunate enough to have been in the first bus load of tourists going up to the house. I say that because we were able to see the house and the grounds without hundreds of other people milling around as is the case later in the day.

And what a fascinating place Monticello is, too! Jefferson was quite brilliant and his home reflected that brilliance in so many ways. Truly a wonderful place to see if you ever get the chance - and the view ain't half bad either!

Keyboard Jockey said...

I would love to spend a summer just touring Virginia historic sites. A fellow Calvert family researcher spent a genealogy research vacation in the Northern Neck of Virginia. I would like to intersperse genealogy and touring historic sites. Monticello would be on my list.

Mimi Lenox said...

That looks divine! Thank you for this history lesson. I love the JFK quote.