Painting by Rembrandt Peale
Thomas Jefferson accomplished a lot in his lifetime. Drafter of the Declaration of Independence, President of the United States, builder of Monticello, legendary gourmand, and lover of ice cream. Jefferson’s passion for all things ice cream is well-known, but did he really bring it to America?
First, let’s back up a little. Back in Jefferson’s day, ice wasn’t the easiest thing to come by on a warm day, and the labor-intensive process of making ice cream by hand meant that ice cream was considered a luxury item. Jefferson first encountered ice cream during his time in France from 1784 to 1789, well before the first printed ice cream recipe appeared in an American cookbook, in 1792. When Jefferson took office in 1801, ice cream was still a little-known luxury in the United States, but Jefferson was so enamored by it that he is indeed widely credited with popularizing it in the United States.
Jefferson brought ice cream recipes as well as an ice cream freezer back with him from France, and when he was in office, Jefferson served ice cream to his guests at least six times, according to Monticello.org. Occasionally he even served it inside a pastry crust. During this time, if a food was served at the White House, it immediately became newsworthy. By the time Jefferson left office, ice cream had found its way into more cookbooks, and had become decidedly more popular.
Jefferson’s obsession with ice cream did indeed help to popularize it in the United States. But ice cream wasn’t the only other food he brought back from France with him; other foods and drinks he’s credited with popularizing in the States include macaroni and cheese, French fries, Parmesan cheese, and even Champagne.