Part cookbook, part culinary history, part travel writing, Dining at Monticello: In Good Taste and Abundance , edited by Damon Lee Fowler (University of North Carolina Press, 208 pages, $35.00), shows that Thomas Jefferson was just as original a thinker regarding food as he was regarding everything else. Chapters delve into such things as his taste in wine as consumer and producer, the African-American influence in Monticello’s food culture, Jefferson’s inclination toward vegetarianism, and the task of restoring Monticello’s kitchen as it existed in his day. Also included are six dozen recipes adapted for modern cooks, some from originals in Jefferson’s hand, as well as an abundance of photographs of the restored Monticello that would be mouthwatering even without the sumptuous food they contain.
Woodrow Wilson described Chester A. Arthur as “a nonentity with side-whiskers.” Theodore Roosevelt called Wilson “a damned Presbyterian hypocrite, and a Byzantine logothete,” and the French prime minister, Georges Clemenceau, agreed: “How can I talk to a fellow who thinks himself the first man in two thousand years to know anything about peace on earth?” Several political generations later, Barry Goldwater said of Ronald Reagan, “He can’t decide whether he was born in a log cabin or a manger,” and Gerald Ford announced that “Henry Clay said he’d rather be right than President. Now President Johnson has proved it really is a choice.” In Distory: A Treasury of Historical Insults (St. Martin’s Press, 179 pages, $18.95), Robert Schnakenberg has collected two centuries’ worth of succinct political invective, including Winston Churchill’s wonderfully mild obliteration of a man who four times served as prime minister: “Mr. Gladstone read Homer for fun, which I think served him right.”