Field of Science

Life is tough

Tonight the Phactors are hosting half of our dinner group, a monthly social event for the past 33 years; our 8th social event in the past 9 days, and the 3d the Phactors have hosted. The season's theme is regional USA and this particular menu comes from The Virginian (Thomas Jefferson) in the Gourmet Magazine (September 2003), although exactly what about this is evocative of Jefferson escapes me. If any of this sounds good to you, the recipes can be found at epicurious. Here's the starters: fig and goat cheese crostini, Virginia ham and melon-apple chutney on corn bread rounds. The soup that the Phactor constructed earlier today is roasted tomato with Parmesan wafers. This is pretty iffy for Jefferson on a couple of levels. Wonder if Jefferson actually grew tomatoes? They are neotropical but did not become a common garden item until the early 1900s. Of course he could have run down to his local Italian deli and got the cheese (and the wafers are just great!). Ham and corn bread, OK, but the rest is a bit suspect for Jefferson. Mixed green salad with tarragon vinaigrette garnished with parsnip crisps. This seems possible, if salad was a menu item in Jefferson's day. Anyone know? The main dish is mustard and herb crusted rack of lamb and wild mushroom potato au gratin. Don't care how authentic this is, it sounds just plain great. The dessert is a pecan pie. This is a true southern confection, but hard to know its early distribution. A heritage cookbook has a Savannah pecan pie recipe, so it's quite possible in Virginia too. So there you go. None of this bothered the other menu planners who decided to go for it on the premise that Jefferson would have liked the recipe even if he'd never actually seen it in his life. For reasons quite unexplained, the Phactors are way ahead of the preparation game; maybe because the place remained pretty neat from an open house earlier in the week, otherwise it would be hell to pay for taking time to jot out a blog. Obviously the other participants cook all the other dishes, or this would be a very different story. Ta.


The Cranky said...

Salad was a part of Colonial menus although not always by that name...Jefferson's palate would presumably have been influenced by the time spent in France so he quite likely had a more sophisticated palate than many of his peers. Tomatoes, on the other hand, were thought to be poisonous by many people in America.
Parmesan? It's tasty and Jefferson probably would have liked it if he'd had a chance to taste it.
So glad I found your blog, I'm enjoying it tremendously.

Unknown said...

Jefferson is known for his huge vegetable garden at Monticello and adventurous palate. And according to an internet source (who cites a non-internet source) he was one of the first in the US to grow tomatoes.

The Phytophactor said...

Here's Justin's link to Jefferson's menus. It doesn't actually surprise me that Jefferson grew tomatoes, and this is yet another example of a re-introduction: Central America to Europe and then back to North America.