james hemings: the enslaved culinary craftsman

Less well-known is the remarkable man who once fed our “founding foodie’s” refined palate: James Hemings. In the 18th century, Hemings was one of America’s most accomplished chefs. He was also Jefferson’s slave…

In the historic kitchen of Monticello, using period utensils, food historian Paula Marcoux recreates 18th-century French dishes as James Hemings would have made them. Hemings — who spent five years with Thomas Jefferson in France — had a mastery of French cooking far beyond what was found in most American households of the era.
In the historic kitchen of Monticello, using period utensils, food historian Paula Marcoux recreates 18th-century French dishes as James Hemings would have made them. Hemings — who spent five years with Thomas Jefferson in France — had a mastery of French cooking far beyond what was found in most American households of the era.

Paris was a city on the cusp of revolution. Talk of the rights of man filled the streets. And at some point, James and Sally Hemings learned a startling fact: Under French law, they could have sued for their freedom. But they choose not to do so…

Why not? “Family,” says Annette Gordon-Reed. “There was a real dilemma for many enslaved people: Do you take your freedom and separate yourself from your family?” Instead, the Hemings siblings agreed to return to America — and to slavery — with Jefferson in 1789…

Read more here: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/17/449447335/behind-the-founding-foodie-a-french-trained-chef-bound-by-slavery

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