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Jefferson Family Recipe Sources

Recipes in Thomas Jefferson's Hand

There are only ten recipes recorded in Thomas Jefferson's own hand.  It should be noted that these recipes were most likely dictated to him by others (and in some cases Jefferson himself provides the source of the recipe - e.g. "Petit's method of making coffee").  Recipes in Jefferson's hand are all located at the Library of Congress, and consist of the following (titles and spelling are Jefferson's):

In addition to recipes for food, there is a recipe in Jefferson’s hand (also at the Library of Congress) for “cement for iron.”

There is also a document, described by Marie Kimball as "a list of suitable methods of cooking various viands and, often, of the proper sauces to accompany them."  The manuscript is in French, in Jefferson's hand, and possibly dictated to him by Adrien Petit.  The manuscript is in the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts at the Massachusetts Historical Society; a transcription, translated into English, was published by Marie Kimball in Thomas Jefferson's Cook Book.4

Recipes Recorded by Jefferson Family Members

Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson.  There are two known recipes recorded by Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's wife.  Both are located in the Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress: "To make rennet," and "To make Cream Cheese by Mrs. Adams."5

Cookbook of Martha Jefferson Randolph.  This collection consists of eleven recipes recorded on six pages, although there appears to be at least one page missing – the last page begins in the middle of a recipe.  There is a note at the bottom of the last page: “These receipts came from another book.”  These recipes are believed to have been copied from Martha Jefferson Randolph's cookbook, possibly by Virginia Jefferson Randolph Trist.6  The recipes consist of the following:

  • Soup
  • Ollaa No. 1, Mrs. H H
  • Olla – 2nd
  • Olla – 3rd
  • Olla – 4th
  • Pickles for Beef – Mrs. TC R
  • To Dress a Calves Head – Mrs. TCR
  • Boulle – Monticello
  • Arrowroot for Invalids – with Mrs. Eppes’ improvement on it
  • Elder Wine
  • Apple dumplings

Recipes Written in Martha Jefferson Randolph’s copy of The Virginia House-Wife.  An 1824 edition of The Virginia House-Wife, inscribed to Martha Jefferson Randolph by the author, Mary Randolph, was given to Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt in 1904, by a man named George Satterlee.  Satterlee stated that a member of the Jefferson family had given it to him.  Approximately 45 recipes were hand-written on blank pages in the book.  The handwriting was assumed to be Thomas Jefferson’s, but has more recently been identified as Martha Jefferson Randolph’s.  A selection of recipes and a facsimile of one of the pages of handwritten recipes was published in The Congressional Cook Book in 1933, and the editors of the book indicated that the copy of The Virginia House-Wife was on display in the White House at that time; however, the book is currently unlocated.7 

Ann Cary Randolph Bankhead Accounts.  Jefferson's eldest granddaughter, Ann Cary Randolph Bankhead, recorded two recipes in her housekeeping book, located at the Library of Congress: a recipe for peas, and another for fish with cream sauce.8

Virginia Jefferson Trist Cookbook.  This is by far the most substantial source of Jefferson family recipes, containing almost three hundred recipes, all in the hand of Virginia Jefferson Trist.  Some recipes from this collection were published in Marie Kimball’s Thomas Jefferson’s Cook Book (1938).  Many of these recipes are from sources other than the Jefferson family, and some were recorded well after Jefferson’s death.  Sources include cooks and servants at Monticello and in Washington (e.g. James Hemings, Étienne Lemaire, and some recipes attributed simply to "Monticello"), other family members (e.g. Martha Jefferson Randolph, Ellen Wayles Harrison, Rosella Trist), published cookbooks (e.g. The Virginia House-Wife), and many others which remain unidentified.  The recipe book was acquired by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in the 1930s from a Jefferson descendant, and is on deposit at the University of Virginia.9

Septimia Randolph Meikleham Recipe Book.  This recipe book, owned by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, consists of almost 150 recipes recorded in a number of different hands.  Most are for food, but there is one recipe for soap, and even directions for knitting socks.  Notable recipes in this collection include "Monticello Muffins."

Martha Jefferson Trist Burke Recipes.  This collection, held at the University of Virginia, is labeled "Housekeeping Receipts M.J.T. Burke, 18[5?]7."  Presumably collected and recorded by Virginia Jefferson Trist's daughter Martha, the book consists of approximately 50 recipes for food, home remedies, and other household items such as glue and ink.  Some are handwritten, and others are clipped and pasted in from printed sources.10

Recipes in the Trist Papers.  There are at least five recipes in the Trist Papers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  All are in the hand of Nicholas Philip Trist, except where otherwise noted.

  • Summer Beer
  • Recipe for Seidlitz powders (in hand of Robley Dunglison, Thomas Jefferson's personal physician; labeled in hand of Nicholas Philip Trist)
  • “To revive old writings which are almost defaced” (in hand of Virginia Jefferson Trist)
  • To Kill Cockroaches
  • Tooth-ache

The Virginia House-Wife.  Mary Randolph's book, first published in 1824, is also an important source for understanding food at Monticello.  Mary Randolph was a relative by marriage who ran a boarding house in Richmond.  As documented in the collections listed above, many Jefferson family members used recipes from this book, and some of the recipes from the book demonstrably originated at Monticello.  This book was very popular and went through many editions during the 19th century, but those published after Randolph's death in 1828 are less authentic.  The best published version is the 1984 edition edited by Karen Hess.11

- Anna Berkes, 12/13/12; revised 7/30/15

Further Sources

  • Fowler, Damon Lee, ed.  Dining at Monticello: In Good Taste and Abundance.  Charlottesville, VA: Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2005.  This book contains a number of useful essays, as well as modernized and adapted versions of Jefferson and Jefferson family recipes, supplemented by recipes from Mary Randolph's The Virginia House-Wife.
  • Kimball, Marie.  Thomas Jefferson's Cook Book.  Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1976.  Originally published in 1938, this book, although dated, contains a useful introductory essay, transcriptions of Jefferson's personally-recorded recipes, and a translated transcription of the abovementioned "list of suitable methods for cooking various viands."  The bulk of the book consists of selected recipes from the Virginia Jefferson Trist cookbook, adapted for the modern kitchen (that is, modern as of the book's publication in 1938).  However, the book misrepresents these recipes as all having a connection to Jefferson and Monticello, when in fact some of the recipes included clearly post-date Jefferson's death, or are copied from published cookbooks.
  • 1. Note that the recipe for "Blanc Manger" is on the same page as Biscuit de Savoye.
  • 2. Note that the recipe for Macarons is on the same page as Meringues, listed second.
  • 3. Note that the recipe for wine jellies is on the same page as Biscuit de Savoye and Blanc Manger; it is listed third.
  • 4. Kimball, Thomas Jefferson's Cook Book (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1976), 30-35.
  • 5. Library of Congress. Thomas Jefferson Papers.  Volume 1: Household Accounts and Notes of Virginia Court Legal Cases, p. 27.
  • 6. Martha Jefferson Randolph Cookbook, n.d., Accession #5385-y, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
  • 7. The Congressional Cook Book (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Club, 1933), xlii-xlvi.
  • 8. Library of Congress. Thomas Jefferson Papers.  Volume 1: Household Accounts and Notes of Virginia Court Legal Cases, pp. 48 and 49.
  • 9. The recipe book can be found in the Trist Family Papers, 1818-1916, Accession #5385-f, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
  • 10. The recipe book can be found in the Trist Family Papers, 1818-1916, Accession #5385-f, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
  • 11. Mary Randolph, The Virginia House-wife, ed. Karen Hess (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1984).

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