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The Sage of Monticello

 

“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

So said John F. Kennedy of America’s 3rd President on April 29, 1962 at a White House dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners.

Today marks the birthday of this extraordinary man; the chief author of the Declaration of Independence, the first U.S. Secretary of State, the second Vice-President, our third President, an Ambassador to France, and the second Governor of Virginia.

Jefferson was also known as the Sage of Monticello, Man of the People, and Father of the University of Virginia.

Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase, nearly doubling the size of the United States, all or part of 14 current states, with one stroke of the pen.

Jefferson also commissioned the Lewis and Clark Expedition to follow the rivers of the Northwest Territory, map them, and collect scientific data among other commercial and political goals.

To say that Jefferson was a giant among men is an understatement. He is with us every single day. Don’t believe me? Check the back of a nickle.

Biographer James Parton said of Thomas Jefferson he could, “calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin.”

Thomas Jefferson was truly a Renaissance Man.

If it sounds like I am an admirer, I unashamedly am. I think he was a great man and a great President.

And I accept that in many ways he was also a contradictory figure. Although he penned these words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,

and while he was publicly against slavery, he ‘owned’ slaves and fathered at least one child with slave, Sally Hemmings.

ASIDE: Don’t ask the docent at Monticello any question about Sally Hemmings unless you can withstand the iciest of coldest stares accompanied with a stony silence.

How then, you may ask, can I call or think Jefferson was great.

Easy.

Jefferson knew that humans are “fallen angels.” We are all imperfect beings. That is why he and our other Founding Fathers put as many safeguards into the Constitution and our system of government as they did.

I accept that we are all imperfect beings struggling with life and living the best way we can. And while I would like leaders I can look up to, I also understand they too are as human and imperfect as I am.

One of the reasons I like Jefferson so much is because of his contradictions. He is endlessly fascinating for them.

I can only wish we had leaders today one fourth as competent as Thomas Jefferson. It would be eminently easier to put up with their contradictions.

Happy Birthday President Thomas Jefferson. Wish you were here.

Featured Recipe    Deviled Eggs

Thomas Jefferson was also a food and wine connoisseur.

Jefferson had a large garden at his home in Monticello where he cultivated over 200 vegetables and herbs, many of them used in cooking at Monticello. Some historians say he was the first farmer in the New World to grow sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Mr. Jefferson was certainly an adventurous man.

The gardens at Monticello also had fruit trees and grape vines in addition to flowers.
During his time as Ambassador to France at the Court of Louis XVI  Jefferson developed a passion for French food. This fact alone makes me like Jefferson all the more. French food is simply wonderful. He wrote down French recipes while traveling France and brought them back home.

While in France he also sent for two of his slaves, Eda and Fanny, too come to France to learn French cooking techniques. As President he added French Chef Julien to the White House cooking staff.

While in France he was introduced to a pasta maker machine and brought it back to America. He also brought back to America macaroni, Parmesan cheese, and raisins.

Eight of Jefferson’s recipes survive in his own handwriting. Two books are the authoritative works on food at Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s Cookbook by Maria Kimball, and Dining at Monticello by David Lee Fowler.

Daniel Webster noted that dinners at Monticello were “served in half Virginian, half French style, in good taste and abundance.” [Source: Monticello Website.] Dining at Monticello and with Jefferson were long affairs marked by lingering after dinner and lively conversation.

I would have loved to dine with Mr. Jefferson. Not only would it have been an excellent meal, the conversation would have been interesting, fascinating, and never boring.

For health reasons, Jefferson ate meat only “as a condiment to the vegetables which constitute my principal diet.” Many family members remarked on this habit, and though we cannot call Jefferson a vegetarian as defined today, for his time, he did eat an unusually small amount of meat, preferring the produce of his garden. [Source: Monticello Website.] 

Although I did a search I have no real idea what Jefferson’s favorite food was. Some sources said macaroni and cheese, some said tomatoes or tomato soup, and several said Deviled Eggs. Who knows for sure? For today’s featured recipe I chose Deviled Eggs. In actuality his favorite food was probably some vegetable.

Here is what you need for 12:

6 eggs

2-3 teaspoons mayonnaise

A squirt or two of wine or lemon juice

About 1-2 tablespoons finely minced shallot

Some capers

1-3 anchovies

Paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

This is what you do:

Hard boil the eggs:  Heat the water till it starts boiling. Then Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let sit 15 minutes.

While the eggs are cooking dice the shallots.

Dice the anchovies…………….

…………….and using a mortar and pestle mash the little devils until you get a paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle mash them with a fork on a flat plate.

Let the eggs cool completely, then peel them, and then cut them in half.

Remove the yolks and place them in a bowl and using a fork mash them up.

Start by adding a bit of mayonnaise and mix into the egg yolks. Ddd more mayo if necessary till you get the consistency you want.

NOTES:  1. From here on you can do and can add whatever you want as long as you chop it up. You do not have to use the ingredients in my recipe. Deviled Eggs can be made with what  ever you like or want.

2. I have no definitive measurements here. I jut kind of eyeball it. Use what I gave you in the ingredient list to kind of start with, give or take.

Now add every thing else, shallots, capers, anchovies, and the wine. Do not forget the wine.  Mix well. I did not add salt and pepper as the capers and anchovies are salty enough.

Then spoon mixture into the egg.

Garnish with some paprika and parsley. Or since I don’t have any parsley in the house I added some garnish of whole capers and ¼ anchovy rolled up.

Serve.

Bon Appetit!!!! 

 Cost

6 eggs                                 $0.99

2-3 tsp mayonnaise              $0.22

A squirt of wine                    $0.07

About 1-2 tspn shallot           $0.24

Some capers                        $0.26

1-3 anchovies                       $0.24

Paprika                                $0.02

Salt and pepper to taste

Total cost = $2.04

Cost per = $0.17

Kind of makes the cost of store bought look like highway robbery, doesn’t it?

Quote of the Day

Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.
 
 Thomas Jefferson
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