Thursday, July 2, 2009

Parmentier and Potatoes

Yesterday as Cheryl and I were trudging through Pere Lachaise cemetery searching for the graves of Jean de La Fontain (France's Aesop's Fables' guru) and Moliere, we noticed the grave of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, which was adorned with - no, not flowers - potatoes - real ones, though a bit worse for wear because of the 90 degree heat! After returning home, we went directly to our friend, Madame La Google, to investigate the details of Antoine-Austin's claim to fame. And here's what Wikipedia had to say:

"While serving as an army pharmacist for France in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), he was captured by the Prussians, and while in prison in Prussia was faced with eating potatoes, used by the French only as hog feed."

Returning to France after the war, he began an imaginative marketing campaign to promote the potato as a human food source. His efforts included:

"a series of publicity stunts, hosting dinners at which potato dishes featured prominently and guests included luminaries such as Benjamin Franklin, giving bouquets of potato blossoms to the King and Queen, and surrounding his potato patch at Sablons with armed guards to suggest valuable goods — then withdrawing the guards at night so the greedy crowd could "steal" the potatoes.

Thanks largely to Parmentier's efforts, the Paris Faculty of Medicine declared potatoes edible in 1772."

1 comment:

  1. Fun info, thanks. Getting most Europeans to eat the potato in the 18th century would be like getting us to eat dog food today. If we want a sustainable world, why not eat glop? The potato was considered food fit only for savages in 18th century Paris. It was low, dirty, ugly and simply not chic until Parmentier's marketing.


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