Monday, December 9, 2013
Dinners at Monticello were "served in half Virginian, half French style, in good taste and abundance." – Daniel Webster, 1824
Thomas Jefferson has been called the "founding foodie" and "America's first wine connoisseur" for his love of good food and wine.
The gardens at his home in Monitcello produced 330 different vegetable varieties and 170 fruits, and he experimented with figs from France, peppers from Mexico, and beans collected by the Lewis and Clark expedition. The president wrote family recipes in his own hand; those surviving two centuries later include recipes for boeuf a la mode (a beef stew), blanc mange (almond cream) and nouilly a maccaroni (a pasta dough).
Jefferson imported European wines, Italian olive oil and French mustard. He served as a wine adviser to Presidents Washington, Madison and Monroe, promoted the idea of an American wine industry, and eschewed Madeira and port in favor of French and Italian wines.
Friday is Jefferson's birthday, and Founders Day at Monticello, his home in Charlottesville, Va. In celebration, George Mitchell, former U.S. Senator from Maine, and two other honorees are being awarded Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals from the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello. (Mitchell is receiving the 2012 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law.)
Tonight, Mitchell and the other medal recipients will dine as Jefferson dined, on a menu designed to reflect Jefferson's tastes. The dinner will include, for example, an asparagus course (Jefferson loved vegetables and grew asparagus at Monticello) and French wine will be served. A spokeswoman for Monticello describes the dinner as "half French, half Virginian, traditional with a fresh flair."
The menu appears at the top of this page, courtesy of The Ascensius Press in South Freeport, who printed the invitations and menus for the event. Click on the menu to enlarge it.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.
Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs. A newcomer to Portland, she is an online content producer for the Press Herald.
Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod [at] pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @susansaxelrod