Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Today's Trivia - The Potato Ban

Following the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, the Spanish introduced the potato to Europe in the second half of the 16th century. But the new vegetable was slow to be adopted by distrustful European farmers. Wherever it was presented (outside of Ireland), it was considered strange and poisonous.

France went so far as considering the potato evil, convinced that the tuber could cause leprosy and other diseases. The potato was only used as pig food. Even the peasants that were starving wouldn’t eat it. In 1748, the production and consumption of potatoes was banned by the French Parliament.


The potato’s reputation did not change for the better until French chemist, Antoine August Parmentier, came on the scene. While serving as an army pharmacist for France in the Seven Years War, he was captured by the Prussians, and while in captivity, he (along with other prisoners) was fed only potatoes. He witnessed no ill effects, and became convinced that the potato was safe to eat.

On his return to France, Parmentier began his mission to popularize the potato, which he felt had been unfairly rejected. Thanks largely to his efforts, the Paris Faculty of Medicine declared potatoes edible in 1772. The production and consumption of potatoes began again after a French law gave the vegetable a clean chit that same year.

There was still resistance and suspicion amongst the people, despite the fact that the potato had been declared safe to eat, but eventually it was accepted and its popularity skyrocketed. There’s no doubt that famine was a great motivator to the potato’s acceptance.

14 comments:

  1. Ah yes, the story of the Irish famine leaves a knot in my stomach as I'm sure it does everyone else. The amazing thing is that people can survive on the potato because it is so full of nutrients.

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    1. What would we do without potatoes. They fill you up. And they can be made in so many different ways.

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  2. Wow, you really do come up with some fascinating facts, Martha. I had no idea that potatoes had ever been banned. Thank goodness that spuds are no longer spurned because I cannot imagine life without french fries and baked potatoes, not to mention mashed potatoes drenched in butter and potato salad and...

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    1. I had no idea that they'd been banned, either. I was quite surprised by this. Thank goodness this is no longer true!

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  3. Jeez, what was with those wacky Europeans? Wouldn't eat potatoes . . . thought tomatoes were poisonous too. Yet snails they wolf down by the bucketful. Makes no sense to me.

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    1. Hahahaha...you said it perfectly, Debra! They would eat the oddest things and then turn up their noses at a simple vegetable.

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  4. I wonder...at first, did they not cook a potato long enough? Let's face it, a raw or undercooked potato is not good! Now, let me have some, boil them and have them with butter and fresh chives. Or, cut into slices and fry them...layer some with a cheese sauce, oh heck, I'm going to the kitchen!

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    1. That is a very good point, Kay. Perhaps they didn't prepare them properly. Or they were just superstitious about certain things. Thank goodness this is in the past. Potatoes are the best!

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  5. Ooh, thank goodness that "eventually it was accepted"!! I suddenly feel like having some mashed, with a sprinkling of parsley flakes and a generous dollop of butter.

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    1. Yes, thank goodness the wonderful potato was finally accepted. I can't imagine a week without this great vegetable.

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  6. Mr. Potato Head from Hell! It would make a great movie!

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    1. Hahaha...yes, it would. One of those cheesy B movies!

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  7. Interesting story - especially when you consider the flipside of the coin with the potato famine in Ireland. Just FYI, you have put that pheasants wouldn't eat them, not peasants.

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