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Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a…
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Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James… (edition 2012)

by Thomas J. Craughwell

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10530114,970 (3.21)12
Member:brangwinn
Title:Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America
Authors:Thomas J. Craughwell
Info:Quirk Books (2012), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:None

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

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  1. 00
    Passions : The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson by James M. Gabler (sgump)
    sgump: Here you'll find more details about Thomas Jefferson's reactions to the food and wine he partook in Europe in the late 1780s.
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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
"Boil 2 quarts of milk with a large piece of orange peel"

I've read quite a few biographies and histories about Thomas Jefferson, but the aspect of his life that interested me most was his interest in food and gardening. Much of Thomas Craughwell's book covers the time Jefferson served as ambassador to France and the food fashions of Paris. From the sumptuous, lengthy, and extravagant meals of the aristocracy came a new sensibility and awareness of food that the aristocratically-minded Jefferson lapped up.

This is not an in-depth history of Jefferson's meals. Likewise, the slave James Hemmings plays a very minor role, probably because little was documented of his short life. Instead Craughwell fills in information about the foods that were popular in America and France at the time. He explains how the French excesses (including food-related) influenced the French Revolution. And this sort of background history that is often glossed over in many history books is what makes this one interesting. Likewise, I enjoyed the short appendixes discussing the kinds of foods grown in Jefferson's gardens and his fascination with wine.

But foodies looking for an in-depth examination of Jefferson's dinner table or James Hemmings' recipes may come away with more historical background than detail. I suspect that kind of 'mundane' information simply wasn't part of the historical record. Still, it was a fun and short read. (For a more detailed look at his gardening I recommend Andrea Wulf's Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation.) ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
"Boil 2 quarts of milk with a large piece of orange peel"

I've read quite a few biographies and histories about Thomas Jefferson, but the aspect of his life that interested me most was his interest in food and gardening. Much of Thomas Craughwell's book covers the time Jefferson served as ambassador to France and the food fashions of Paris. From the sumptuous, lengthy, and extravagant meals of the aristocracy came a new sensibility and awareness of food that the aristocratically-minded Jefferson lapped up.

This is not an in-depth history of Jefferson's meals. Likewise, the slave James Hemmings plays a very minor role, probably because little was documented of his short life. Instead Craughwell fills in information about the foods that were popular in America and France at the time. He explains how the French excesses (including food-related) influenced the French Revolution. And this sort of background history that is often glossed over in many history books is what makes this one interesting. Likewise, I enjoyed the short appendixes discussing the kinds of foods grown in Jefferson's gardens and his fascination with wine.

But foodies looking for an in-depth examination of Jefferson's dinner table or James Hemmings' recipes may come away with more historical background than detail. I suspect that kind of 'mundane' information simply wasn't part of the historical record. Still, it was a fun and short read. (For a more detailed look at his gardening I recommend Andrea Wulf's Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation.) ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
"Boil 2 quarts of milk with a large piece of orange peel"

I've read quite a few biographies and histories about Thomas Jefferson, but the aspect of his life that interested me most was his interest in food and gardening. Much of Thomas Craughwell's book covers the time Jefferson served as ambassador to France and the food fashions of Paris. From the sumptuous, lengthy, and extravagant meals of the aristocracy came a new sensibility and awareness of food that the aristocratically-minded Jefferson lapped up.

This is not an in-depth history of Jefferson's meals. Likewise, the slave James Hemmings plays a very minor role, probably because little was documented of his short life. Instead Craughwell fills in information about the foods that were popular in America and France at the time. He explains how the French excesses (including food-related) influenced the French Revolution. And this sort of background history that is often glossed over in many history books is what makes this one interesting. Likewise, I enjoyed the short appendixes discussing the kinds of foods grown in Jefferson's gardens and his fascination with wine.

But foodies looking for an in-depth examination of Jefferson's dinner table or James Hemmings' recipes may come away with more historical background than detail. I suspect that kind of 'mundane' information simply wasn't part of the historical record. Still, it was a fun and short read. (For a more detailed look at his gardening I recommend Andrea Wulf's Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation.) ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. The story of how, in America, race and slavery are intertwined with cuisine, is fascinating and deserves in-depth exploration. Unfortunately, the author seemed mostly interested in Jefferson and French cuisine, and the story of James Hemings was stuck on as a necessary side note. Admittedly, the information about Hemings is slight, so the author may have felt limited in his ability to say more. But he pads the story with extended information about the sights, sounds and flavors of France of the day, about Jefferson’s family, about Jefferson’s interest in plants. If he had given equal context to African-American contributions to the cuisine of the U.S., or extended the discussion forward with information about how freed slave cooks built enterprises around their food, the book would have been much more interesting and enlightening. As it was, the author seemed rather uncomfortable with the aspects of slave owning that cast his beloved Jefferson in a bad light. At one point he notes that sexual relations between slave owners and slaves may be shocking to us today, “but” they were common at the time. I would think an “and” would be more appropriate to that explanation. He also refers to the relationship between Sally Hemings and Jefferson as an “affair,” not the word most would use to describe a relationship in which the power laid all on one side. The author’s seeming discomfort or lack of interest in the complexities of this story left the book feeling lightweight, like a heavily padded magazine article. ( )
  waitingtoderail | Oct 16, 2013 |
I had high hopes for this book, but I was disappointed - I think it may have had a lot to do with the title. James Hemings got less than a chapter's worth of discussion in total, and much of that was conjecture. I understand the difficulty of constructing a narrative for a slave in this time period, but that's what I expected to read based on the title, the back cover, and the book jacket. If the title had been, say, "Jefferson's Palate: How a Founding Father's Appetites Introduced French Cuisine to America" I think I would have enjoyed it much more.

I also found odd the fact that there was a resources/appendix section at the end of the book that was in narrative format. It didn't include any *actual* resources. That section (which contained some interesting information) could easily have been added to the body of the book, and just the actual notes section left at the end. ( )
  liz.mabry | Sep 11, 2013 |
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In 1784, Thomas Jefferson traveled to Paris with one of his slaves, nineteen-year-old James Hemings. The particular purpose for which they traveled to Paris-- to master the art of French cooking. In exchange for James's cooperation, Jefferson would grant his freedom.--Dust jacket.… (more)

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