After independence from Britain, Thomas Jefferson was sent to France to represent the United States, but he also had other plans- to learn about French food, wine, cooking, and then bring the cuisine back to this country. This plan included a slave, James Hemings, who was to be apprenticed to French chefs in order to become an accomplished chef who would ultimately teach his skills to another slave in Jefferson’s household.
The France that Jefferson and Hemings found was on the verge of revolution with the two extremes between a wealthy upper class and extreme poverty. It was also a place where Hemings could request to be free, though Jefferson had promised freedom for the young Hemings if he attained Jefferson’s goal. Hemings chose to stay with Jefferson and history was made as the two men began their adventure.
Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée by Thomas J Craughwell is a historical narrative that is more than a cooking history because it also explores the complex Jefferson and his world during his years in France. Hemings’ life was also affected by his experience that would eventually bring him freedom, and together their experience would bring to this country new foods and wine like macaroni, champagne, and, of course, crème brûlée.