To this day, you have almost worshipped Julia Child for introducing French Cuisine to Americans but what if you were told that it was one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, and a slave boy, Hemings, who were responsible for cooking French for the first time on American soil.
All this is revealed in a new book, “Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brukee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America.” The author Thomas J. Craughwell claims to have cast a deep look at the eating habits of Jefferson and Hemings to come up with this conclusion. In his book, Thomas writes, “She (Julia Child) is widely believed to be responsible for single-handedly introducing Americans to French food. That is a misconception…”
Before the American Revolution, the mainstays of American colonial cooking were meats, breads, sweetened desserts, and “generally overcooked vegetables.” During the Revolution, the French Allies of America brought their cooks as well as troops. However, it was not until Jefferson went to Paris in 1784 that he asked Hemings to learn French cooking and teach it to somebody back home in exchange for his freedom. In fact, after their return to America, it was James’ younger brother, Peter, who took over the kitchen.
The next time you pop a french fry into your mouth or throw some olive oil into the frying pan, thank Thomas Jefferson. The recipes included in the book are French but only one of his written recipes is James’. In fact, there is a very thin record of probably the first French cook in America, except that he went on to work as a cook. His life story, however, ended at a tragic note. He is believed to have killed himself after a bout of heavy drinking at the young age of 36.
That is how the first French cook of the country died.
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