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This review is from: Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America (Hardcover)
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There has been recent interest in Thomas Jefferson's food and wine interest and his influence on American viticulture and the culinary art. These topics are highly related to his time in Europe during the late 1780's, especially France where he served as a diplomat for the young nation. James Gabler's "Passoins: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson" was the first. It is a small book doing a very concise job of covering Jefferson's European travels in the and his experiences and comments about wines and wine countries. More detailed and with more original material excerpted is John Hailman's "Thomas Jefferson on Wine". This volume is more scholarly in its goal but it is more restricted to Jefferson's wine interest. More of a coffee table book is Damon Lee Fowler's "Dining at Monticello: In Good Taste and Abundance". This one has a lot of very good pictures in glossy paper and some recipes. It is more concentrated in the food interest of Jefferson. Now, I need to get back to the new Thomas Craughwell book, "Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee". This book despite covering the same area that the other three books I have mentioned, it has much to offer. First, there is a very good story-telling narrative that is the back bone of this book. It covers well the ambiance of Parisian society just before the French Revolution, and from the point of view of a new visitor from America. It does a better job of the "time and place" aspect that any of the books I have mentioned here. The background stories about Jefferson's slaves, friends and family are well presented as part of the back drop of his time in Paris. They are robust stories and very interesting too. It ends up being a more holistic approach to the subject. The book spends a lot of pages on James Hemings as it should. Rather than just keeping count of the facts, the story telling approach should add to its popular appeal. The last part of the book shows facsimile of some of Thomas Jefferson's recipes and those with connection to him. They are so obscure and so hard to see that the effort is a waste. Some annotation would be very helpful. I think many reading this book would have interest in making food with connection to Thomas Jefferson, albeit recipes may need to be updated for the modern chefs. Some attempts in this area would have been nice.