When you think of Thomas Jefferson, it's likely that the Declaration of Independence comes not mind--not, necessarily, mac and cheese. That's about to change.
Turns out, the third U.S. president played a pivotal role in the invention of mac and cheese, history records noted.
In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, William Short -- his private secretary--wrote that he had obtained a "mould for making maccaroni" in Naples and had forwarded it to his mentor in Paris. However, it's likely that the macaroni machine didn't reach France until after Jefferson had departed. As a result his belongings, which likely included the machine, were shipped to Philadelphia in 1790, and subsequently, to his Monticello home in 1793.
From his personal notes, Jefferson expressed a profound love for his macaroni machine:
The best maccaroni in Italy is made with a particular sort of flour called Semola, in Naples: but in almost every shop a different sort of flour is commonly used; for, provided the flour be of a good quality, and not ground extremely fine, it will always do very well. A paste is made with flour, water and less yeast than is used for making bread. This paste is then put, by little at a time, viz. about 5. or 6. lb. each time into a round iron box ABC, the under part of which is perforated with holes, through which the paste, when pressed by the screw DEF, comes out, and forms the Maccaroni g.g.g. which, when sufficiently long, are cut and spread to dry. The screw is turned by a lever inserted into the hole K, of which there are 4. or 6. It is evident that on turning the screw one way, the cylindrical part F. which fits the iron box or mortar perfectly well, must press upon the paste and must force it out of the holes. LLM. is a strong wooden frame, properly fastened to the wall, floor and cieling of the room. N.O. is a figure, on a larger scale, of some of the holes in the iron plate, where all the black is solid, and the rest open. The real plate has a great many holes, and is screwed to the box or mortar: or rather there is a set of plates which may be changed at will, with holes of different shapes and sizes for the different sorts of Maccaroni.
Even if Thomas Jefferson didn't quite invent mac and cheese, he did, however, help popularize the spherical noodle while serving it to dinner guests during his presidency.
If you're feeling presidential, take a stab at Jefferson's macaroni recipe:
6 eggs. yolks & whites.
2 wine glasses of milk
2 lb of flour
a little salt
work them together without water, and very well.
roll it then with a roller to a paper thickness
cut it into small pieces which roll again with the hand into long slips, & then cut them to a proper length.
put them into warm water a quarter of an hour.
dress them as maccaroni.
but if they are intended for soups they are to be put in the soup & not into warm water
There are few better ways to top off a stressful week of work than by indulging in one (or two) bowls of mac and cheese. So grab some hot, melty goodness, and be thankful for Thomas Jefferson.