Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thomas Jefferson's Mac & Cheese... Your Ancestors' Recipes

I came across this video recipe, which is supposedly the former American President Thomas Jefferson's favorite "macaroni and cheese". Now, I don't believe that this is actually Thomas Jefferson's recipe, as there is no historic proof of this, but it did get me thinking about the very cool legacy we are left in the recipe cards or informal cooking lessons we get from our mothers, fathers, their mothers and fathers, and so on.

How cool is it that we can bake a batch of cookies the same way our great-grandmothers did? Or whip up a casserole in the same way that an ancestor in England, France, you-name-it, did? It makes me feel closer to those people, though they've lived and died long, long ago.

I have several recipes which were my great-grandmother Isabelle's.  Her parents were English immigrants, so it's possible that some of them were old English recipes, or ones adapted for life and the ingredients commonly found in the US.  

There is one recipe in particular for a "drop" sugar cookie made with soured milk and a bit of nutmeg.  Unlike most sugar cookies, you don't roll the dough and cut them out.  Instead, you "drop" a bit of the cake-like batter onto your cookie sheet with a spoon, and they come out of the oven, soft, white, and almost like small cakes.  These are my very favorite cookies in the world except for my Mom's oatmeal raisin, or her datenut cookies -- supposedly a recipe given by an Eastern European friend to my grandmother years ago.

I've sort of guarded this recipe for years, but have thought I should start sharing it - at least with distant cousins, Isabelle's other descendants.  I suppose I don't want people NOT to see it.  It's just that I don't feel right about posting that "treasure" out there online and having it passed anonymously around. :)

In lieu of Isabelle's sugar cookies, here is Thomas Jefferson's Mac & Cheese.  I think you'll appreciate Chef John's other recipes at as well!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Color, Race, and the Family Tree

An interesting segment aired on NPR just today which brings together genealogy, our notions of race, skin color, genetics and evolution:

To begin, please point your elbow to the ceiling.

Then imagine yourself naked.

Then look at the patch of skin on the inside of your upper arm, the part of you that almost never sees the sun.

Whatever color you see there is what experts call your basic skin color, according to professor Nina Jablonski, head of the Penn State Department of Anthropology.

And that color, the one you have now, says Jablonski, is very probably not the color your ancient ancestors had — even if you think your family has been the same color for a long, long time.

American Royalty Deep in the Heart of Texas

If George Washington had demanded to become the King of the US, and not our first president, who would be ruling today?

Though Washington's descendants are many (though he himself fathered no children, nieces and nephews would have been next in line), and royal line rules vary by country, genealogists have traced the lines to one man who is doubly descended from Washington's family.

His location?  The lonestar state.