jefferson's kitchen (styling for southern living magazine in monticello)

handmade markers, made by the head gardener pat, beautiful

when i got the call to come work on a photo shoot for southern living magazine on jefferson's monticello garden and kitchen, i was pretty excited. in my family american history is regular dinner conversation. very little impresses my family about my job (they all think it's pretty frivolous, tough crowd), so when i announced this assignment one night at dinner....well they were impressed!

i got to monticello and met the crew in the garden early in the morning, it is breathtaking. first on the schedule was a walk through garden with the main gardening staff, pat and graham lead the tour, i picked out the veggies that would be featured in the kitchen shot and i was off to start styling in the kitchen. while i made my way to the kitchen the veggies were quickly collected and delivered to me the kitchen.
{ i also met the head gardener, a pretty famous guy, peter, he was very friendly , photogenic and charismatic with his signature big mop of hair...he has great sense of humor}

the kitchen (which is part of the museum) was gorgeous. i was introduced to sharon, who would be helping me with propping and she introduced me to the crew of curators that would be my assistants on the job. did i mention that this was a dream styling job?

cute mark , photo editor up early and smiling
working with mark the photo editor and robbie the photographer and steve the garden editor was smooth and very creative. we had a crowd of monticello visitors observing us, which was kind of fun.
while working on the first shot i met leni a. sorensen phd, a culinary historian, we made a date to meet so she could give me the history of the kitchen, the kitchen staff, and the food that jefferson liked to eat.

the photo shoot was scheduled during a yearly event, the heritage harvest festival. the festival draws farmers and craftsmen from the surrounding area so day 2 was spent photographing local farmers, and seed savers, heirloom veggies and farming experts + adorable animals like goats, chickens and sheep.
dr. apple's demo of how cider was made in jefferson's day it was informative and fun + a great photo op.



ira the tomato lady getting ready for her close up


i wandered back to the kitchen to meet my new friend leni and learn about jefferson's kitchen, kitchen staff and food that was prepared there.

leni , monticello's culinary historian

this is the beautiful kitchen i styled in on friday


leni told me that jefferson took his main cook Peter, a slave with him to paris to learn to cook in the french style.
jefferson took what he learned about french cooking and used it in the his own kitchen along with american classics referred to as"Half-Virginian, Half-French Style".

since the kitchen is located away from the main house, the cooks were forced to walk all the covered dishes though a underground passage to a staging area under the main dining room. the food was carefully warmed, plated and covered before sent up to the main dining room on the dumb waiter.

of course there were many women that worked under the main cook. leni told me that these women are never written about or referenced in anything written about jefferson's household.

jefferson loved to eat and was a gourmand, his wife however was not. gracious dining was the order of the day. the meals were specific, very specific to jefferson's demands.

jefferson was a believer that lively salon like discussion was a must at the dining table. this was very different way of thought for the period, and a lot of his guests were not only confused by the food that being served to them, but the guests on the guest list. jefferson believed that open and honest discussion was for the dinner table. for example, he would invite 6 wigs ad 6 federalists to dinner parties and expect open salon style conversation, like he observed in paris. but all the guests did not in fact have open discussion, on the contrary they steered towards observations the weather or daily activities like morning rides. therefore jefferson's idea of open discussion and even solutions to political problems was a failure much to his dismay, and this forced him to rethink the french salon supper's.

what was for dinner?


leni suggested that i pick up a copy of the virginia house wife to get a better idea of the kitchen of jefferson's day. {It was published in1838. This book is considered by some to be the first truly American cookbook and by all to be the first regional American cookbook. This work is still in print and still forms the basis of traditional Virginia cooking. It has been praised by many culinary authorities both for its delineation of authentic Virginia foods and its careful attention to detail. Upon its first appearance in 1824 it was an immediate success and it was republished at least nineteen times before the outbreak of the Civil War. In addition, copies appeared in the late nineteenth century and modern Southern authors aften reference it. The recipes in The Virginia House-Wife are simply splendid.}* from Amazon.


(typical breakfast}
hot cakes, wheat muffins, corn muffins, butter and jam, and cold ham.
{typical dinner}
pot roast, baked ham, corn bread, vegetables from the garden. french style pastries. * jefferson was the first to record the recipe for ice cream, great fact.




the whole experience working with southern living magazine in monticello was truly a career highlight and the people at monticello made it even more so. if you have not i suggest a visit to the grounds of monticello. the feature will appear in one year. but i suggest you check out the heritage harvest festival for yourself, i'll be back next year with my family in tow.


* of course since i was on the grounds with sharon ( she helped me with prop-age) who buys for the store at monticello, i picked up a few new props for my stash, i suggest you check out the shop, i found some wonderful things.



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