Thursday, July 23, 2009



Picture of Monticello taken by Karen Price

I’ve known my friend Karen since we were eight years old. We grew up in the same neighborhood and went through primary and secondary school together. After high school graduation, we went our separate ways, but continued a “snail mail” relationship that we maintain to this day. Every other year, we take a trip together to someplace we both find interesting. A few years ago, we chose Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Karen seated in front of Monticello

Since both of us are enthralled with Monticello and renaissance man Thomas Jefferson, I decided to give Karen a different kind of birthday gift this year. I found a cookbook entitled Thomas Jefferson’s Cook Book by Marie Kimball. Karen doesn’t like to cook very much, so I suppose that a cookbook seems like a strange gift. But I think she will appreciate the detailed descriptions of all that went into running Monticello’s kitchen and social gatherings.

Thomas Jefferson's Cook Book

Jefferson spent a great deal of time in Europe and made a point of sampling the foods and fruits of every locality he visited. He was responsible for introducing to America many of the foods and culinary tools we take for granted today. For example, he first tasted waffles in Holland and bought a waffle iron.

Collection of Jefferson's favorites

I decided to purchase examples of several of the foods Jefferson discovered to send along with the cookbook. I tried to engineer the wrapping so that Karen will open each food when she reaches the chapter or page in Jefferson’s cookbook that describes it.

Since I didn't want to send a heavy waffle iron, I bought Karen a first class waffle mix

Macaroni, page thirteen

Jefferson loved macaroni. According to Kimball, he penned a recipe for “Nouilly a macaroni” and sent it to his daughter. So, I bought Karen a box of organic macaroni and cheese that I think she will find easy to prepare.

Tea, page twelve

Jefferson tasted new teas when he visited Amsterdam. Kimball says, “Tea was subject to his careful scrutiny and scientific observation.” The tea I found for Karen is vanilla-flavored. I hope she hasn’t tasted it before.

The wine I would rather have received as a gift. I bought Karen grape jelly.

Jefferson was considered the ultimate authority on wine and took regular inventory of his wine cellars. He regarded wine as a necessity of life; and I have to say that I share his belief! Karen doesn’t drink much wine, but there is a recipe in Kimball’s book for wine jelly that Jefferson had his staff prepare for him. So, I bought Karen a jar of gourmet wine jelly.

Pure vanilla beans for making the French puddings Jefferson loved so much

Jefferson also introduced vanilla beans to this country. Kimball says he sent a request to someone in Paris for “a packet of 50 pods which may come in a packet of newspaper.” I found Karen some Madagascar vanilla that I think she will thoroughly enjoy.

Green pea soup

Jefferson’s favorite vegetable was the pea. He planted over 30 varieties. I found a beautifully packaged bag of cowpeas at a gourmet shop here in Roanoke, but I knew Karen would probably not use them. Instead, I bought her a bag of pea soup I know she will love.

Below is a picture that Karen took while lying on the ground at the back of Monticello’s garden. She used my camera – one of the first digital cameras – and got one of the best views of Monticello I’ve ever seen. I’ll use this for her birthday card.

Photo courtesy of Karen Price

Collection wrapped and placed in mailing container

Wouldn't you love to receive a gift like this? Perhaps I have encouraged you to create your own special collection for someone you care about.

I hope Karen likes her unusual birthday gift. I was able to create a unique, personalized birthday gift without spending a lot of money. None of the items I bought were very expensive, but I did invest a lot of thought and time to track down high quality examples of the foods I sent. As Jefferson might have said, “Bon appetit, Karen!”

Stumble Upon Toolbar


  1. I think the entire concept is delicious and the package was so full of love; it was the most obvious ingredient of every package and page. Karen is incredibly blessed to have a friend like you in her life... for almost her entire life. You are both very special people.

  2. I love seeing your kind and caring ways of keeping friendships important in your life, too. Very thoughtful of you.
    I visited my sis in VA in 1990 and we stopped for some time one afternoon at Monticello!
    Our dad loved his one visit there as well.
    Came across his letter to our now deceased younger sister after that visit of his. It is a real treasure to have here.


If convenient, please leave a comment. I read every one and thoroughly enjoy hearing your thoughts.