THOMAS Jefferson was not only the author of the Declaration of Independence. He was also, some say, the greatest gourmet that ever resided in the White House. He liked everything about food -- talking about it, growing it, and even planning menus to please his many guests. Jefferson was particularly fond of vegetables -- especially corn and peas. In fact, Jefferson liked corn so much that he grew Virginia sweet corn in his Parisian garden when he was minister to France during George Washington's presidency. And when home at Monticello, he enjoyed having fried chicken garnished with circles of cornmeal mush that was first chilled until it set, sliced, and then cut into circles and fried.
Jefferson's fondness for corn was rivaled only by his penchant for peas. He grew about 30 kinds of them in his large Monticello garden. Minted peas were one of his favorite foods, and he often included them on menus along with corn pudding.
The preparation of corn pudding and most dishes served at Monticello was often time consuming. But there are many recipes for peas and corn that can be easily prepared -- some with modern equipment that would have amazed and been welcomed by Monticello cooks, others with frozen or canned peas and corn. Corn Pudding 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour 1 1/2 cups milk 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard 2 cups whole-kernel canned corn 1 egg 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce Buttered crumbs
Melt butter in small saucepan. Add flour and blend. Add milk gradually and stir constantly over medium heat until sauce thickens slighty.
Add seasonings, corn, slightly beaten egg, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour into baking dish, cover with buttered crumbs, and sprinkle with paprika.
If desired, a pinwheel of ``brown and serve'' sausages can be placed on top of mixture or make your own design. Bake at 350 degrees F. 15 to 30 minutes.
The following recipe has a good chance of becoming a family favorite: Corn and Broccoli Casserole 1 teaspoon corn oil 2 1-pound cans cream-style corn 2 packages frozen chopped broccoli (bring to boil and cook about 2 minutes) Salt and pepper to taste 1 1/2 cups finely rolled cracker crumbs 2 eggs 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
Pour corn into an oiled 9-by-13-inch casserole. Add broccoli, salt and pepper. Mix cracker crumbs and eggs and spread over broccoli. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F. about 30 minutes.
Peas fresh from the garden can be given zest when herbed with thyme. Thyme Peas 2 cups shelled, fresh peas, cooked 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped 1/3 cup of beef or chicken bouillon l/4 cup melted butter
Cook thyme in bouillon for 5 minutes. Strain, add butter, and pour over hot peas. Cold Curried Pea and Potato Soup 1 package frozen green peas 1 10 3/4-ounce can chicken soup 1 10 3/4-ounce can creamed potato soup 1 teaspoon curry powder Salt and pepper to taste Sour cream for garnish
Cook frozen peas in chicken soup. Add potato soup and curry powder; mix in blender. Season to taste. Cool and serve with dollop of sour cream.
Both corn and peas go well with a number of other vegetables. Try combining corn with okra, tomatoes, lima beans, or green beans. Peas go well with onions and mushrooms, and can always be used for that old-time favorite -- peas and carrots.