Foods You Didn't Realize Thomas Jefferson Made Popular In America

Thomas Jefferson is one of those historical figures who's almost too interesting to believe. He was intellectually curious his entire life, an inventor, a writer, a politician. He's credited with crafting the Declaration of Independence, and like many of the Founding Fathers, owned slaves. According to Biography, he served from 1801-1809 as the third President of the United States (after serving as the country's first Secretary of State and second Vice President), concluded the Louisiana Purchase to double the size of U.S. territory, and sent Lewis and Clark and Friends cross-country on a journey into the unknown for the sake of science and exploration. He was a musician, a linguist, a botanist, and a lawyer. He followed Benjamin Franklin as Minister to France in 1785, and while he wasn't a fan of French culture — "I find the general fate of humanity here, most deplorable," he wrote — one of the upsides (for all of us, really) was what he brought back: food.

Jefferson was truly adventurous when it came to the palate: He grew and ate tomatoes at a time when many Americans believed them to be poisonous (they come from the deadly nightshade family, but Edwin Booth was John Wilkes Booth's brother and he turned out okay). His time in France broadened his life experience, but also his tastes.

Call them what they are: pommes de terre frites à cru en petites tranches

One of the things he brought with him was a taste for ice cream, as the website for his home, Monticello (now an historical site), reports. He delighted in delighting guests with it, and his personal recipe, written by his own hand, survives today. Speaking of comfort foods, Jefferson is also credited with introducing nouilly á maccaroni — what became mac and cheese, sometimes served as a sort of savory pie. And although he preferred them cut into rounds, instead of sticks, we also have his recipe for pommes de terre frites à cru en petites tranches — what you get when you ask for an order of fries: "potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small cuttings," says Mental Floss.

Jefferson is also credited with introducing champagne to America, as well as parmesan cheese (which would be helpful in preparing that nouilly á maccaroni). He had a fondness for olive oil and the trees which produced it — "Of all the gifts of heaven to man, it is next to the most precious, if it be not the most precious," he wrote, according to History Net, convinced they could be cultivated successfully in North America.

Peter Hatch, director of gardens and grounds at Monticello, told History Net that Jefferson was America's "first foodie." The story checks out.