We don’t often think about the value of the potato; it is so basic to our diet. Many think of meat and potatoes as the beginning of any menu, but it was not always so.
The potato originated in Peru 4,000 or 7,000 or possibly even 14,000 years ago. The Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century brought the potato back to Spain and it spread throughout Europe. It was not much appreciated and was usually fed to the pigs. Or to really poor people.
Antoine Augustine Parmentier, a French pharmacist who spent several years as a prisoner during the Seven Years War surviving on potatoes realized that the potato contained all the important nutrients to sustain life. He then sought a way to bring it into the kitchens of all.
He prevailed upon King Louis XVI to give him 50 acres of wasteland outside Paris to plant potatoes. Knowing the potatoes’ poor reputation he used a little psychology on the local people. He planted the potatoes and set up 24 hour guards. The local peasants assumed that guards would only be protecting a valuable crop. When, by design, the guards were given a night off, many of the potato plants were stolen and so spread from one garden to another.
Today, French restaurants and cookbooks offer many versions of Pommes de Terre Parmentier, really just cubed potatoes sautéed in butter and oil or goose fat until crispy brown outside and mealy inside. Hmmm. Something of a resemblance to our own beloved French fries.
The potatoes pictured above are from the local Donovan Farm, which grows all kinds of potatoes for all kinds of uses. All praise to the potato!