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Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America by [Craughwell, Thomas J.]
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Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America Kindle Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Craughwell provides a delightful tour of 18th-century vineyards still in production, a look at French aristocrats just before the Revolution and the France that paid little attention to the color of a man's skin...A slim but tasty addition to the long list of Jefferson's accomplishments. --Kirkus Reviews...a fascinating read...We have to confess to reading it in one sitting. It reads much like a novel than a history book and the passion for his subject shines through in the writing of author Thomas J Craughwell....a French cookbook with a difference. It still has French recipes, but concerns itself with the history of how French cuisine was introduced to America and the unique relationship between foundling Father and President of America Thomas Jefferson and his slave James Hemings. Readers learn that not only did Thomas Jefferson introduce crème brulee to America, but also French fries and champagne. He is also thought to have popularised macaroni and cheese to the American palate....include the earliest known recipe in America for ice cream and of course crème brulee --recipebookreviews, October----a must have book for lovers of history, food, and France. I think personally would have liked this man as Thomas Jefferson quoted wine as a necessary drink for life .......Yes I agree with that!However, he also considered many other things a necessity; books, salad oil, salt and hair powder. Now I ll go along with the lot but hair powder?! On with the book: This book tells the amazing story of how in 1784, Thomas Jefferson made a deal with one of his slaves, 19-year-old James Hemings who was of mixed race. The Founding Father was traveling to Paris to serve as ambassador to France. Jefferson wanted to bring James along for a particular purpose - to master the art of French cooking. If James was willing to go along with the plan, Jefferson would grant his freedom. But why did Jefferson want to do this? Because the American diet circa 1784 was appalling. All meat was boiled and spices were very limited. Vegetables were overcooked to the point of mush and even the bread was stale. Although Thomas Jefferson had never sampled French cuisine, he had read about it, and he wanted to bring its secrets back to the United States so the two men went off to Paris...... James Hemings was apprenticed under several Master French chefs for 3 years before taking over as Chef de Cuisine in Jefferson's house on Paris' Champs d'Elysees. James prepared extravagant meals for Jefferson's many guests. Paris changed his life too; for the first time, he lived and felt like a free man. Back home in Virginia all Virginians assumed that any black person they encountered was a slave. However, slavery was unknown in France and more to the point it was illegal. Parisians who saw black men or woman walking down through their city may have thought them exotic, but never as slaves. But still he looked forward to the day he would return to America and become truly free. When the men returned home in 1789, they brought Americans the gifts of: Champagne, Pasta and even a pasta machine! French Fries as we know them today and even Mac and Cheese, Creme Brulee; and a host of other innovations. All in all: A great book and well worth buying especially as I said before, if you have an interest in History, Food and France this is for you. There's even a few of Thomas Jefferson's favorite recipes included some written in his handwriting which is sometimes a mixture of French and English, so a little tricky to understand! His recipe for Crème Brûlée is on the back cover and looks good. --aglugofoil, October, 2012...isn t a book of archaic French recipes, although they are mentioned. This is a fascinating snapshot of American social attitudes in that post-independence era, and of culinary customs of the French court and Parisians in particular --Mostly Food Journal, November, 2012

Taking place against the backdrop of the prelude to the French Revolution and including several original recipes, this fascinating narrative will appeal to politics, history and food enthusiasts alike. --Living France, March, 2013

About the Author

Thomas J. Craughwell is the author of THIS SAINT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE (Quirk 2007) but more importantly, he's also the author of STEALING LINCOLN'S BODY (Harvard University Press, 2007, $24.95 HC), which sold 40,000 copies and was later adapted into a documentary by The History Channel.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 6988 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (18 Sept. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007OLQCM8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,346,539 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Let's say 3 1/2 stars. I wonder if this started as Craugwell's PhD thesis because that's how it reads. MASSES of footnotes, which I didn't bother with (although I normally would) because I was reading the Kindle version and just couldn't figure out how to do it efficiently. It's an interesting book about Jefferson; how many of us read anything about early America after we finish school? So the history was useful and Jefferson was interesting - clay feet and all - but as for this purporting to be the history of James Hemings, his inherited-from-his-father-in-law slave (and the father in law's bastard son), well, there was much more surmise than fact. Which, given that Hemings probably didn't keep a diary, nor did anyone think to write anything down about him, makes sense. But the title is somewhat misleading. I had actually thought to make some of the recipes, particularly the creme brulee, but again, given the Kindle version, I couldn't read the photocopies of anything. Worth a read, but only if expectations are managed.
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By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 July 2013
Format: Hardcover
"Thomas Jefferson's Crème Brulee" is part history and part gastronomical journey. It focuses on Thomas Jefferson's time as a diplomat in Paris during which he undertook not only to get loans for his struggling government but to elevate the cuisine at Monticello and with it, America as a whole. Before leaving America in 1784 he struck a bargain with his slave, James Hemings, to grant James his freedom after he went to France to learn French cooking. The bargain was kept. Hemings was apprenticed in the finest kitchens in Paris while Jefferson researched plants and seeds that would broaden the food selections available in America. Upon his return he passed his knowledge on to his younger brother before his emancipation and subsequent career in the food service industry.

Within this story author Thomas J. Craughwell explores the relationships among the American commissioners, Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin and their roles in French society. He compares the state of food in America and France and describes what Jefferson saw during the early phases of the French Revolution.

This short book is an easy read that introduces the reader to facets of Jefferson's life and character only touched on in more general volumes. For any fan of Jefferson and Early American cuisine, "Thomas Jefferson's Crème Brulee" is a delight to be savored.
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