Hello Zabar’s! I’ve missed you so. Living here on the west coast has its perks—nice weather, wide open spaces, the beautiful blue Pacific—but a major flaw, in my opinion, is the lack of Zabar’s. I always look forward to my Zabar’s fix when I fly to New York. Luckily now they ship, so I can have a taste whenever I’m craving it!
Most of you here are familiar with my food blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen; I’ve shared many Jewish-inspired Shiksa recipes here on the Zabar’s blog. I’m excited to tell you about a new website I’ve launched called The History Kitchen (www.thehistorykitchen.com). This site is the culmination of a journey that started when I was a little girl. As a child, I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents, Grandpa Clarence and Grandma Lois. Weekends spent with them were filled with art, music, film and history. I soaked up the culture like a sponge. Because of my grandparents, I grew up curious and excited about world history. By the time I was in my twenties, I had become passionate about food and cooking as well as history. My fascination with the roots of old recipes inspired me to start collecting vintage cookbooks. I became a food sleuth, and with each new dish, I made it a mission to discover the origins. I started The History Kitchen and brought on a select group of contributors to write and cook recipes with me. Through The History Kitchen I am able to share a deeper exploration of food, history, and culture with all of you… including recipes like this one, Monticello White Bean Soup!
When Thomas Jefferson was appointed Minister (plenipotentiary) to France from 1785 to 1789, he devoted a great deal of his time there to exploring French cuisine and cooking methods. He became an expert on French wines, and he even brought an enslaved person from Monticello named James Hemings with him to learn French cookery. When Jefferson took the Oath of Office in 1801, one of his first priorities was finding a suitable French chef for the President’s House kitchen.
This French-inspired recipe for White Bean Soup appears in a Monticello cooking manuscript compiled by Jefferson’s granddaughters, Virginia Randolph Trist and Septimia Anne Randolph Meikleham, slightly updated for clarity with black pepper (a popular spice at the time) added for flavor. At Monticello, this would have been served as one of several appetizers in a multi-course meal. Nowadays, it makes a comforting and seasonal vegetarian entrée. To read more about the history of this dish, check out Monticello White Bean Soup on The History Kitchen.