George Washington may be the father of our country but it is Thomas Jefferson who is often credited with being the father of macaroni and cheese.
No small wonder that the brilliant mind who promised us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness made it manifest in the creation of the ultimate comfort food.
But it may be a bit an exaggeration.
Though he was a connoisseur of fine food and drink it is doubtful that mac and cheese originated with him. That our third president was an enthusiast of macaroni there is no doubt.
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Jefferson fell in love with pasta while traveling in Italy.
In 1784 Thomas Jefferson was called to Paris to replace Benjamin Franklin as the new Republic’s Minister to France. At the time macaroni was a very fashionable food in Paris.
While touring Northern Italy in the spring of 1787 this Yankee doodle dandy developed an enthusiasm for macaroni or what we now call spaghetti. Along with purchasing a mould for making macaroni, he had crates of pasta shipped back to the US.
Frustrated with the mould, he eventually designed his own macaroni or pasta maker, the plans of which rest in the The Library of Congress.
Elected President on Feb 17 1801, macaroni was a must at the table at the White House of our third president.
In documents from the Library of Congress, one guest reports dining on a “pie of macaroni” at the White House, an early version of macaroni and cheese.
Jefferson was most likely not the first to introduce macaroni (with or without cheese) to America nor did he invent the recipe as it was already in wide use in Europe. He did however popularize it in America by serving it frequently to his dinner guests during his presidency
We can be sure his mac and cheese was no gloppy Velveeta affair but likely used the Parmesan cheese produced in the small village of Rozzano near Milan that he became enamored of.
Great Contributions to Good Taste
His well-known love of macaroni was immortalized in a 1948 ad from Budweiser Beer in its campaign of “Great Contributions to Good Taste.”
“Most of us know that Thomas Jefferson expressed Americas idea of freedom by writing the Declaration of Independence but few know that he guided our forefathers to better living by also writing an excellent cookbook,” begins the copy in this ad.
“From Naples he got a mould to form spaghetti and introduced what today is one of our most important and popular foods. He did the marketing for the White House and presided genially over its inviting table. Jefferson earnestly believed that good food and drink temperately enjoyed each day with good friends were essential to a worthwhile lifetime.”
Connoisseur that Jefferson was, it’s doubtful he hoisted a Bud but preferred fine wines.
His letters from 1803 reveal a purchase of Nebbiola wine- “200 hundred bottles and 3 barrels” were shipped to Monticello along with a request for “50 pounds of Naples Macaroni.”
While in Italy he developed a taste for the Nebbiolo wine of Piedmont. Nebbolio is the grape upon which Italy’s 2 greatest and priciest red wines Barolo and Barbaresco are based.
Before his journey to France in 1784 Jefferson, like most at the time, was a consumer of Madeira and port. While abroad he developed a taste for the lighter wines of France and Italy.
Nebbolia, was a sparkling wine of Piedmont which he described as “about as sweet as the silky madeira, as astringent on the palate as Bordeaux and as brisk as champagne.”
Just right for a dish of mac and cheese!
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