“Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée,” by Thomas Craughwell

“Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America
By Thomas J. Craughwell
256 pp., Quirk Books
$14.88

This culinary biography recounts the 1784 deal that Thomas Jefferson made with his slave, James Hemings. The Founding Father was traveling to Paris and wanted to bring James along “for a particular purpose” — to master the art of French cooking. In exchange for Hemings’ cooperation, Jefferson would grant his freedom.

Thus began one of the most unusual partnerships in United States history. As Hemings apprenticed under master French chefs, Jefferson studied the cultivation of French crops (especially grapes for winemaking) so they might be replicated in American agriculture.

The two men returned home with such marvels as pasta, French fries, Champagne, macaroni and cheese, and crème brûlée. The narrative tells the story of their remarkable adventure — and even includes a few of their favorite recipes.