Food & Drink

Myths of Monticello

Thomas Jefferson’s culinary legacy is riddled with half-truths. Let’s set the presidential record straight

Myth: Jefferson introduced ice cream to the colonies.

Fact: There’s record of ice cream in Maryland as early as 1744, when little T. J. was only a year old. But he grew up to be a fan of the frozen treat; he served it in his home as president and penned America’s first known recipe for the stuff, calling for “2 bottles of good cream, 6 yolks of eggs, ½ lb. sugar.”


Myth: Jefferson was a vegetarian.

Fact: The former president did eat meat, but sparingly, preferring the bounty of his garden. In his words, meat was “a condiment for the vegetables which constitute my principal diet.” When he did partake, one Monticello overseer noted, “he was especially fond of Guinea fowls.”



Myth: Jefferson set off a waffle craze in the United States.

Fact: This is only partially true. Although Dutch colonists enjoyed homemade waffles since settling New Amsterdam (now the southern tip of Manhattan), Jefferson did help popularize them. He purchased a set of waffle irons on a trip to Holland, and once his service as minister to France wrapped up in 1789, he brought one home to Monticello, where waffles became a breakfast favorite.