While in France, Jefferson blossomed into a real Francophile, declaring his love for the country in many of his letters and memoirs.

In 1786, for example, Thomas Jefferson hinted at the French ‘joie de vivre’ in a letter to Abigail Adams:

“Here we have singing, dancing, laugh, and merriment (…). When our king goes out, they fall down and kiss the earth where he has trodden; and then they go on kissing one another. They have as much happiness in one year as an Englishman in ten.”

Jefferson decorated Monticello in French style with many items from his time in Paris, everything from furniture to beautiful wine glasses, fabrics and kitchen utensils. In his dining room, he would often gather friends for food, wine and good conversation, just as he did while living in France. To him, there was an art to true enjoyment… and no one understood that art as well as the French. In 1785, he wrote the following to Charles Bellini:

“In the pleasures of the table they are far before us, because with good taste they unite temperance. They do not terminate the most social meals by transforming themselves into brutes. I have never yet seen a man drunk in France, even among the lowest of the people. Were I to proceed to tell you how much I enjoy their architecture, sculpture, painting, music, I should want words. It is in these arts they shine.”

When Jefferson left France in 1789, he did so with great gratitude for the country and its people. In his autobiography, published in 1821, he penned his heartfelt love for France with the following words:

“And here I cannot leave this great and good country without expressing my sense of its preeminence of character among the nations of the earth. A more benevolent people I have never known, nor greater warmth and devotedness in their select friendships. Their kindness and accommodation to strangers is unparalleled, and the hospitality of Paris is beyond anything I had conceived to be practicable in a large city. Their eminence, too, in science, the communicative dispositions of their scientific men, the politeness of the general manners, the ease and vivacity of their conversation give a charm to their society to be found nowhere else. In a comparison of this with other countries, we have the proof of primacy which was given to Themistocles after the battle of Salamis. Every general voted to himself the first reward of valor, and the second to Themistocles. So ask the traveled inhabitant of any nation, In what country on earth would you rather live? — Certainly, in my own where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest and sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be your second choice? France.”

Thomas Jefferson was a well-educated, cultured bon vivant and adoring Francophile. When people ask me, “if you
could have dinner with a famous historical figure, who would it be”, one person would definitely be Thomas Jefferson. I think we would have plenty to talk about! What an exceptionally fascinating man… and what a painful difference with the character we currently have in office. But before the thought of the latter stays in our heads for too long, let’s move on to a recipe which according to Jane Grigson may have appeared on Jefferson’s table. The recipe is called oeufs à l’ail (garlic eggs) and comes from the book Jefferson gave his daughter, La Cuisinière Bourgeoise, which was first published in 1746 and was one of the most important French cookbooks of the 18th century. I managed to find the original version, but gave it my own interpretation and a slightly modern twist. Roasting the garlic makes the sauce that goes with these eggs exceptionally fragrant and flavorsome. Serve the garlicky eggs with plenty of bread and sweet cherry tomatoes for dipping. It makes a beautifully rustic appetizer.
francophile recipe
Oeufs à l’ail

Serves 3-4


  • 1 head of garlic
  • A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, plus 100ml for the sauce
  • Fleur de sel
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • 6-8 eggs
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tsp capers
  • chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • Bread and cherry tomatoes, to serve


Preheat the oven to 180℃. Cut a small slice of the top of the garlic head so that the cloves are exposed. Place on a small baking pan, drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 40 minutes. Allow to cool while you hard-boil the eggs. Rinse them under cold water and set aside. To make the garlicky sauce, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into a small food processor. Add the anchovy fillets, capers, vinegar, 100ml olive oil and a pinch of pepper. Process into a smooth sauce. Pour the sauce into a shallow serving dish. Peel the eggs and arrange them on the sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with plenty of crusty bread and perhaps some cherry tomatoes.