Lynchburg & America’s First Foodie, Thomas Jefferson

Because of his love of food and wine, Thomas Jefferson is often referred to as “America’s First Foodie.”

Following his time in Europe as Minister to France, Thomas Jefferson introduced and/or popularized a number of foods to America (such as pasta, ice cream, French fries, tomatoes and vanilla) and he attempted to grow grapes in order to produce his own wine.  Although his efforts at winemaking failed, he was certainly on the right track since Virginia has blossomed in recent years into the fifth largest producer of wine in the United States.

This tour includes a visit to Thomas Jefferson’s private retreat home Poplar Forest.  An extraordinary architectural creation, this octagonal house was designed by Jefferson and built while he was serving his second term as President of the United States.  In his then “modern kitchen” you will see a type of cooking stove that was inspired by those that Jefferson saw in France.  His extraordinary dining room, a perfect 20’ x 20’ cube space lit by what was then the largest skylight in America, is directly above his wine cellar. It was at Poplar Forest that Jefferson was able to relax and be himself away from the hustle and bustle of Monticello.

I shall want a supply of good corks to bottle our beer and cider, as soon as they can be got. It is so provoking to lose good liquor by bad cork.    -- Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Miller, 1819 

From Poplar Forest, it’s just a short jaunt to partake in one of Jefferson’s other favorite libations.  At Apocalypse Ale Works where, with coordination through the tourism office, a boxed lunch or food truck(s) can be provided as you enjoy the tastes of house-brewed craft beers.  

Then back to Historic Downtown Lynchburg, where you will visit the Lynchburg Community Market, the third oldest farmers market in America. Established in 1783 a few blocks from its current location, Thomas Jefferson could well have visited the market on his trips between Monticello and Poplar Forest.  There you can peruse local artisan made crafts, taste fresh German pastries and fine coffees and, of course, purchase fresh veggies on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

After an enjoyable day of experiencing Mr. Jefferson’s foodie pursuits, choose from any number of Lynchburg’s fine dining establishments for a relaxing repast.

The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America, which it has in Spain.    -- Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1785

For dessert, a visit to Altus Artisan Chocolates is in order.  The proprietors roast organic, free-trade Cao beans on site, from which they hand-craft fabulous chocolates.  They also sell gelato ---one flavor of which is vanilla, a flavor popularized in America by Thomas Jefferson!