Niagara Gazette — One thing is quite clear; they were the slaves of Thomas Jefferson.
When he became president, Jefferson moved to the White House and took William Bell Fossett’s mother away from her husband in order to learn French cooking.
Likely a waiter at the Cataract House, Fossett was in Niagara Falls as early as 1854 where, as Kratts notes, he had been “given charge of a hotel at Niagara Falls. Of course, their cooking skills were most likely gleaned from their mother, who had brought French cooking to America through Thomas Jefferson.”
Ok, now here’s where this particular story gets really interesting, if not twisted.
Last July Smithsonian.org, in their Food & Think column posted an article titled, “Meet Edith and Fanny, Thomas Jefferson’s Enslaved Master Chefs” which supports Thomas J. Craughwell’s book, “Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America.”
As described at Amazon.com, “This culinary biography recounts the 1784 deal that Thomas Jefferson struck 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 James’s cooperation, Jefferson would grant his freedom… Thus began one of the strangest partnerships in United States history.”
According to the article, “The two men returned home with such marvels as pasta, French fries, Champagne, macaroni and cheese, crème brûlée, and a host of other treats.”
Could this have been the genesis of “Mac & Cheese” as we know it today?
Noting that, “While Julia Child may have popularized French cuisine in America, she wasn’t the first to lend it prominence in our culinary culture—that credit goes to Thomas Jefferson, says the article.