Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Potatoes, Courtesy of Monsieur Parmentier

I've been thinking of resuming a brief series from past years, taking a look at some well-known chefs and their natal charts. However, skimming through several Wikipedia pages and lists of famous chefs, that dreadful new denomination of "celebrity chef" kept coming up. That put me right off the idea! These people can obviously cook, but they'd rather make their living from appearing in TV series, writing books, guesting on chat shows, opening ever lengthening chains of restaurants. They are not in love with food in the way that I see a proper chef being in love with food and the the preparation of it. Anyway, for passing readers interested, there are seven posts from the past featuring chefs of one kind or another, to access these click on "chefs" in the Label Cloud in the sidebar.

The guy taking centre-blog stage today wasn't a chef, but he did the food industry a big favour.

 Hat-tip here
We have to thank Antoine Augustin Parmentier, a pharmacist and chemist in 18th century France for popularising the potato as a food fit for kings as well as for we lesser mortals.

The potato originated in South America, but in 18th century Europe it was considered fit only for animal feed. The tuber had somehow, through groundless gossip, gathered a reputation of causing leprosy. That idea might have arisen due to the potato's kinship with the Nightshade family.

Parmentier was taken prisoner by the Prussians in the Seven Years War. During imprisonment he existed on a diet of potatoes. When freed, in 1763, and returned to Paris he began spreading a good word about the despised potato. He hosted dinner parties featuring potato dishes, inviting such luminaries as Benjamin Franklin. He even offered potato flowers to Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI. Perhaps this was when the delicious Potage Parmentier and Pommes Parmentier were born.

His efforts didn't really bear fruit - or potatoes - for some years, even after the Paris Faculty of Medicine had declared them fit for human consumption in 1772. The people seemed unwilling to forget associated worries of the past. Later, during the 1770's, famine swept through Europe, killing a large proportion of the population. A poor wheat harvest in 1769 caused panic in France. The French Provincial Academie de Besancon offered a prize for discovering a "food substances capable of reducing the calamities of famine." The winner, of course, Antoine Parmentier, championing the cause of the potato. The rest is delicious culinary history.

A favourite author, Douglas Adams, was not often mistaken in his quirky observations, but when he wrote “It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes”, he was wrong.

Antoine Augustin Parmentier was born on 12 August 1737 in Montdidier, France.

This is a 12 noon chart as no birth time is known. I don't find a lot to say about Monsieur Parmentier's natal chart. His signature would probably be Uranus opposing Saturn: new ideas opposing old ideas (about the potato and nutrition in general). Mars conjunct his North Node of the Moon in Virgo reflects his "fighting" (Mars) stance on matters of health (Virgo).

I adore potatoes, cooked any way at all. I think I could happily live on a diet of potatoes, good bread, good butter, good cheese, yoghurt, and good fruit and assorted veggies. "Good" being the key word there, though!

“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
~A.A. Milne (Wonder if that applies to a woman too?)

 Pommes Parmentier


mike said...

One potato
Two potatoes
Three potatoes

Five potatoes
Six potatoes
Seven potatoes

Where would we be without Mr Potato Head?

Don't forget vodka! Potato vodka is made in your old haunts:

"Chase (UK): Every ingredient and every step of the process in making Chase potato vodka originates in Herefordshire, England. From the high-starch potatoes grown on their Herefordshire farm,to the natural aquifer water below the farm, to the distillery and bottling plant. In 2010, Chase Vodka was voted the best in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Unlike the more popular mass-produced wheat vodkas such as Grey Goose, Smirnoff, and Absolut, Chase is relatively hard to find, but your local liquor store may be able to special order it."

There's even a brand named "Zodiac" made in Idaho, USA. I've never been much for vodka...maybe a bloody Mary on occasion during a brunch with friends. Champagne seems to now be the brunch drink of choice.

I, too, enjoy all methods of potato cookery. I rarely eat potato anything anymore, though. Maybe once a year I'll purchase a five pound bag and do 'em up. I like the Yukon Gold variety. Potato soup has always been a winter standby for me...I usually blenderize a block of tofu into it for the added protein and the tofu is flavorless. I always blenderize the skins, too...lots of extra nutrition there.

Have you tried "smashed potatoes"?

"On 15 June 1992, the US Vice President, Dan Quayle, misspelled 'potato' as 'potatoe'. It happened at a School in Trenton, New Jersey, when he was 'correcting' the already correct spelling of William Figueroa, 12, by adding an 'e' at the end."

mike (again) said...

P.S. - according to the covens and Celts, the Moon rules potatoes:



Twilight said...

mike ~ Lots of extra info - many thanks!

I much prefer eating 'em to drinking 'em, I never did acquire a taste for vodka.

Back in Britain the King Edward potato is a prized variety, and Jersey new potatoes at the right time of year are extra delish. Here, I take what I can get. Husband can't eat potato (other than sweet potato, due to a low glycemic diet he must follow).

I haven't tried "smashed" potato - sounds interesting.

One cooking method I haven't tasted for many a year is what in Britain is called Roast Potato (as against Baked potato - baked in its skin).
Roast potatoes were peeled, cut in half or quarters depending on size, and roasted in the oven with a joint of meat (usually for Sunday lunch)- not put in the oven at the outset of course, but partway through the beef/lamb roasting time. This method added a different texture and flavour from any other cooking method - potatoes done this way were also good as cold leftovers to nibble on.

Potatoes and Moon eh? Wonder how they came to that conclusion. As they grow underground you'd expect them to be more Plutonian. :-)

♥ Sonny ♥ said...

we love taters here:)
all different ways but a fav is twice baked where its baked- cut in half - cheese onions bacon added then popped bake in to bake another 15 mins. yummmmm

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Ooooh! That's something I must try - (typed as she dribbles on the keyboard).

Shana C. said...

Antoine Parmentier is a descendant of mine on my dad's side. This was a smart man, and I am happy to know we are related, somehow-it gets confusing looking at the family tree!

Shana C.

Twilight said...

Shana C. ~ Hi there! Thank you for popping in to comment. It's good to discover one's ancestors - especially when they prove to be as interesting as this one of yours! :-)