20 Myths from American History We're Here to Debunk

Jefferson did not bring ice cream to America from France, as is often reported, though he was a fan of the confection. White House

2. Thomas Jefferson did not introduce ice cream to America

An often repeated myth which can be found with relative ease on websites and in books is that Thomas Jefferson first encountered ice cream in France, and was so enamored of the dessert that he brought it to America where he made it popular. Ice cream was known in America at least six decades before Jefferson’s first mission to France. Recipes were printed in New York and Philadelphia, and it could be purchased at confectioners, including in Jefferson’s Virginia. It was also well known in New Orleans, then part of the Spanish Empire. It is true that Jefferson loved ice cream and served it often as President, but so did Washington before him.

Another myth regarding Jefferson and gastronomy is that he also brought back both the dish we know as macaroni and cheese and parmesan cheese to the United States. Macaroni was well known in America, the word had even become slang for a fancily dressed fop (remember Yankee Doodle). There is likely some truth to the parmesan story though. Jefferson hoped to produce a similar cheese locally at his plantation at Monticello. Differences in the breed of milk cows from Italy and the United States, as well as the diets which sustained them, doomed the experiment to failure. Jefferson served imported parmesan at Monticello’s table, another example of his expensive tastes adding to his growing indebtedness.