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  • Writer's pictureBrian Powers

Episode 39 - Mac & Cheese

The cat's outta the bag - I've got a blog entry for every episode. I'm glad you found it. So let's start by posting the recipe:

It comes with a history and culture lesson, which makes it twice as delicious. This is also pretty solid recipe as well:

I didn't hit on it too hard, but just about everywhere, you see Thomas Jefferson being credited for introducing mac & cheese as we know it to the United States. The problem is, that dude never cooked a day in his life. According to historians, the only time he came into the kitchens at Monticello was to reset the clock. That actually makes sense if you've ever been to Monticello and seen the enormous weights on the massive clock he had installed, with holes cut into the floor so that they can lower down into the work spaces below the main house.

So it was James Hemings who learned how to cook, and it was Hemings who brought the recipe back that Jefferson liked, and it was Hemings who adapted it for American prime time. But Jefferson has gotten the cultural credit - there are a lot of listicles of "Five Foods that Thomas Jefferson Made Popular in America" like his culinary exploits were anything other than the work of people other than him. But I digress...

We'll talk about James's sister, Sally, at a later date. One exceptionally interesting piece to the puzzle is that, while in France, James and Sally were technically free. They could have sued Jefferson for their freedom and won. It seems they used this as a bargaining chip to extract a promise of favored treatment when they got back home, but it also appears that they didn't want to be separated from their family back in Virginia. Still, it had to be an extremely tough decision.

After James's manumission, he struggled to find work, but when Jefferson won the Presidency, he sent word to James that he wanted him to be the head chef at the White House. James refused, saying only that he would agree to do so if Jefferson wrote to him directly. Jefferson felt that it was beneath him to directly correspond with James and refused to do so. Had Jefferson shown James Hemings the merest of respect by reaching out directly, life might have been very different for James. When he died, James was working as a cook in a tavern. But he refused to work for the man who couldn't show him even a modicum of respect, even if that meant turning down the White House.

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Kat Powers
Kat Powers
14. Feb.

The mac n cheese is amazing guys. you should try it

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