Interesting Fact of the Day...
Gather round for Story-time!
During the Seven Years’ War, a French army officer named Antoine was captured by the Prussians, dragged off to a prison camp, and forced to eat potatoes.
Being made to eat potatoes was nothing short of mental torture for Antoine and the other French captives.
You see, about two hundred years earlier, after the Spanish returned from South America, they brought with them an exciting new vegetable…the potato. However, it didn’t win over the rest of Europe. In fact, the French were aghast, convinced it was poisonous and caused leprosy, sterility, “rampant sexuality”, hemorrhoids…
Even the poor, starving peasants wouldn’t eat potatoes.
Completely convinced of the ill-effects this vegetable caused, by 1748 the French Parliament outlawed potatoes due to health concerns.
That’s right, potatoes were illegal in France.
While a prisoner of war, Antoine was forced to eat this poisonous, leprosy-inducing tuber that his own government had been intelligent enough to prevent from being grown.
During his time in prison, Antoine discovered he’d suffered no terrible side-effects of the potato. In fact, they were delicious.
He realized France had been dead wrong.
When eventually released, he returned to Paris to study nutritional chemistry.
In 1772, due in large part to Antoine’s work, France repealed the law:
Hear ye, hear ye,
The potato is indeed edible.
You may grow and eat them now.
Of course, everyone remained doubtful.
In 1779, Antoine was appointed a position in which his job was to stabilize the food supply for Paris. Determined to bring potatoes to the masses, Antoine set out to make them popular amongst the Parisian aristocracy, hoping it would trickle down to the commoners. He’d serve delicious potato dishes for dinner and invite guests like Benjamin Franklin. He sent a bouquet of potatoes, shaped like flowers, to Marie Antoinette. But, since this was just before the French Revolution, the commoners didn’t have a lot of respect for Marie Antoinette or any of her peers.
Not about to give up on his goal of convincing the masses they could safely eat potatoes, in 1781 Antoine came up with a brilliant plan.
After convincing King Louis to gift him a huge plot of land, he planted a massive amount of potatoes. Then, to make the potatoes irresistible, like some forbidden fruit, Antoine had the king’s men guard them.
And I mean “guard” them.
They were under strict instructions to do a crappy job.
If anyone tried to steal potatoes, they were to look the other way.
If a guard was offered a bribe, they were to accept it, no matter how big or small.
The potatoes were pretty much being protected by Sgt. Shultz:
During the night, the crops weren’t even watched.
Finally, after months of small thefts, and the public getting used to seeing this secret new crop being grown, he fired all the guards.
As expected, people raided the land, stealing whatever potatoes they could bring home, and began to grow them in their own gardens.
A few months later, almost every farm near Paris was growing potatoes, all thanks to Antoine-Augustin Parmentier.
By François Dumont - http://www.reprodart.com/a/dumont-francois/portrait-of-antoine-parme.html, Public Domain
And there you have it, your interesting, but useless fact of the day about potatoes