- The Plate
Thomas Jefferson: President, Scholar, First Foodie
Today is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, and what might the president, on his special day, have had to eat?
Perhaps chicken fricassee, baked Virginia ham, or bouilli—beef boiled with onion, carrots, turnips, and celery, and topped with a mushroom-and-caper sauce. Any of these may have been accompanied by asparagus or peas, both of which—according to Jefferson’s meticulously kept Garden Book—were often available from the Monticello gardens by early April. And the meal may have been polished off with ice cream, pastry, pudding, or crème brûlée, and followed up with an after-dinner glass of Madeira, which Jefferson believed was good for the health.
Whatever was served on the Jeffersonian birthday table, it was almost certainly delicious. Unlike Bill Clinton, whose favorite meals once featured cheeseburgers