What's for Dinner: Thomas Jefferson's Birthday Meal

A presidential dinner of artichokes, charred peas and pound cake
Charred Peas, Mortadella and Burnt Ricotta
Photo: Tasting Table

Not feeling inspired by your usual dishes? Here's what's for dinner.

Thomas Jefferson, who would have turned 272 today, wrote the Declaration of Independence and purchased the entire midsection of the country. But let's focus on his passion for both domestic and foreign foods: Jefferson dedicated many acres of his sprawling Monticello home to growing and cultivating more than 300 types of vegetables and 150 types of fruit. Word has it he was also a huge ice cream fanatic.

To honor Jefferson's birthday, you could pay for your coffee in nickels and two-dollar bills, but we think our third president would have wanted us to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with this TJ-inspired dinner menu.

① Main Course: Artichokes Barigoule
Before he was president, Jefferson served as secretary of state and the French minister, which influenced a lot of his cooking. He hired French chefs and infused French flavors into his dinner menus. Surely he would have enjoyed this classic Provençal dish of simply prepared artichokes, which he planted in his garden.

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② Side Dish: Charred Peas, Mortadella and Burnt Ricotta
He may have acquired European tastes, but TJ was Virginia born and bred. He wasn't a vegetarian, but he is quoted to have focused mostly on vegetables, with meat to accompany. So we think he would have loved this dish, in which the mortadella takes a back seat to blackened seasonal peas.

③ Dessert: Olive Oil Pound Cake with Glazed Apples
Cake is practically a given—it's a birthday, after all. Epicure that he was, Thomas Jefferson imported olive oil from Italy. But the apples could have come from his eight-acre orchard. This cake may not be big enough to fit 272 candles, but it'll do.


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