Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mr. Lantos', Ms. Smith's and Ms. Keller's 5th Graders Eat Like Thomas Jefferson

The Marquez 5th graders concluded their study of Thomas Jefferson the vegetable loving president and horticulturist by preparing a vegetable-based meal. Thanks to the Wahlings, Vizoni's and Patty Wong Smith for coordinating the cooking lessons!

The students in Mr. Lantos' class enjoyed cutting the vegetables which were then cooked in an electric skillet and combined with pasta. The students loved the meal and had seconds!

In Mr. Lantos' class the cooking experience followed a discussion of facts about Jefferson's gardening led by parent Michele Wahling. She used information from the Monticello website.

In 1819 Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, and that ... as a condiment for the vegetables, which constitute my principal diet."

His 1,000-foot-long kitchen garden terrace was an experimental laboratory where he cultivated seventy different species and 250 varieties of vegetables and was Jefferson's chief horticultural achievement at Monticello. Here, Jefferson himself sowed peas, cabbages, and okra , lettuce, etc 

The English or Garden pea is usually described as Jefferson's favorite vegetable because of the frequency of plantings in the Monticello kitchen garden, the amount of garden space devoted to it (three entire "squares"), and the character-revealing playfulness of his much-discussed pea contests: according to family accounts, every spring Jefferson competed with local gentleman gardeners to bring the first pea to the table; the winner then hosting a community dinner that included a feast on the winning dish of peas. He documented 19 pea varieties. 

Jefferson's butler, Lemaire, however, only recorded purchasing peas for the President's House six times in 1806 for the elaborate state dinners Jefferson hosted. (Parsley, by comparison, was purchased on 79 different occasions). There is no record Jefferson or his family members purchased peas from slaves at Monticello. Perhaps Jefferson enjoyed growing peas more than he liked to eat them.

Jefferson would plant a thimble full of lettuce seeds every week during the growing season.

However, Lettuce was the most common vegetable purchased in the Washington markets for Presidential dinners; Lemaire purchased it over ninety times in 1806. Lettuce was planted an average of five or six times annually in the Monticello garden between 1809 and 1824. 

Salad oil was a perennial obsession for Jefferson. He referred to the olive as "the richest gift of heaven," and "the most interesting plant in existence." 

Jefferson was a pioneer grower of "tomatas." He mentioned how tomatoes were virtually unknown ten years earlier, but by 1824 everyone was eating them because they believed they Akept one's blood pure in the heat of summer."