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.