Thursday was National French Fry Day; McDonald’s and Wendy’s were giving out free fries, and a splendid time was had by all. Few, however, paused amid the celebrations of the glorious day to ponder exactly how it came to be that our grateful land was blessed with this culinary treat. As it turns out, we owe it all, and so much more, to none other than Thomas Jefferson, a man who has become so maligned and hated on the Left that his statue was removed from the chambers of the New York City Council back in 2021.
Monticello, Jefferson’s stately Virginia home, has the straight, salty dope on its website:
Jefferson returned to America from France with a recipe for pommes de terre frites a cru en petites tranches, which essentially translates to “deep-fried potatoes in small cuttings.” His notes from the President’s house contain perhaps the earliest American reference to this now ubiquitous food. Mary Randolph, one of Jefferson’s relatives, included a recipe for fried potatoes in her historic cookbook, The Virginia House-Wife. Though they have a round shape instead, the potatoes are otherwise nearly identical to what we call french fries.
John F. Kennedy said it best at a 1962 dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” And if Jefferson’s dinner included fries, the picture was complete: a brilliant man eating a brilliant food that he himself, in his impressive wisdom, brought to the New World.
Yet at the very same Monticello that so proudly informs the world that Jefferson is responsible for bringing french fries to the new nation, Jefferson himself is under a cloud. The venerable mansion has been turned into a fount of woke propaganda that denigrates Jefferson and treats unsuspecting visitors to an over-the-top orgy of victimhood and white guilt regarding slavery. Brandon Dillard, who is the “Director of Historic Interpretation and Audience Engagement” at Monticello, responded to charges that Jefferson’s home had been turned into a woke antebellum Disneyland of racial divisiveness and guilt by saying: ““The Thomas Jefferson Foundation that owns and operates Monticello doesn’t make these decisions on its own. We interpret history based on the advisement of academic scholars.” Oh, well, there’s your problem right there. Give over Jefferson’s home to a gaggle of woke academics, and it’s no surprise that it will become all about the evil slave owner and his noble captives.
One of those “academic scholars,” Alan Taylor, who is the Thomas Jefferson Foundation chair at the University of Virginia, was dismissive of those benighted rednecks who dared to take umbrage at the wokeification of Monticello: “It’s not just here but throughout our country, there’s a lot of anger. There are a lot of people who feel the country is changing in ways they have no control over, and it makes them very, very angry. And they often invest their vision of what America is or should be with a notion of history. So when they come to a place like here, they come prepared to be upset.”
They certainly are upset, and with good reason. According to a New York Post report from a year ago, “visitors complain that employees go out of their way to belittle Jefferson and his life.” One visitor wrote on Facebook that “the tour guides play ‘besmirchment derby,’ never missing a chance to defame this brilliant, complex man.” Another wrote: “Always enjoyed visiting Monticello in the past. The workers are super friendly and helpful. Unfortunately on this guided tour, we were lectured more on slaves and Sally Hemmings than the man himself. Half of the comments on Jefferson were critical. I expected for, the price, to have enjoyed it more. Even my 11 yr old daughter noticed the bias. We all are aware of the tragedy of slavery during the early part of this country’s history. Please center your presentations on the man and his accomplishments rather than promoting guilt.” Not a chance.
A third visitor said: “Visited a few years ago and had a great experience and got to learn a lot about Thomas Jefferson. This time every video slandered his name and the entire focus was on his mistress. Very disappointing and shocking to see how they are trying to rewrite history to make it seem like the founding fathers were terrible immoral creatures that happened to start a country.” Ah yes, now you’re getting the idea.
The goal of all this is to make Americans sad and demoralized, and vulnerable to those who would have them believe that this nation has been evil from the beginning and is in drastic need of a thorough overhauling of its political system and society in general. Monticello would be better off if it had stuck with telling us about how Jefferson is the man we can thank for fries.