Potato's bad press

Article published on Jan. 4, 2008
community published
Article published on Jan. 4, 2008

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The potato is a tuber that originated in Peru. The Spanish imported it to Europe and since then it hasn’t stopped moving through the continent.

The first time any Europeans used it as a food was in Seville in the sixteenth century. It was given to the sick and to soldiers, but it did not receive a warm welcome, since it was considered flavourless and thought to cause flatulence. The Spanish army exported it to Italy because it was used as food for the load bearing supply animals, like the horses and pigs that accompanied the regiments. From there it spread to Holland and Germany, and the pirate Sir Francis Drake took it to Ireland, where it became the main food for those living there. Nevertheless this food continued to have bad press. In France it was thought to cause leprosy.

Let's be clear, ladies and gentlemen: chemical weapons haven't been invented in 20th century, but in 16th Century by the Spanish army! (Illustraiton: María Luque)

And then came along Parmentier, who brought potatoes into fashion in fashion’s homeland. He convinced King Louis XVI to plant potatoes in one of his palace’s gardens under the vigilant watch of his soldiers. They were also in view of the peasants living around him who immediately thought that the potatoes were being treated as something very valuable. When the crop was ready to be harvested, he ordered his soldiers to let down their guard and let the fields be robbed by the peasants. 'Every thief will be a convert,' Parmentier declared, convinced. And so it was. The French Revolution, the famines and the Napoleonic hordes scattered across Europe did the rest.

Potatoes and politics

In 1845 the population of eight million Irish (on the island there are now only 6.5 million inhabitants) mainly ate potatoes, but the fungus known as Phytophtora infestans caused the loss of all the crops and thousands of people died or emigrated to America and Australia. The Queen of England did very little to avoid the famines and extended the Irish people’s hate for the English. Subsequently, secret societies were created that prompted the independence of nearly the entire island in the 20th century.

RECIPE: Spanish (potato) Tortilla: it couldn’t be easier!


4 medium potatoes

4 eggs


Spoonful of olive oil


Beat the 4 eggs and add a pinch of salt.

Next, tip the peeled and cubed potatoes into the eggs.

In a frying pan, heat half a spoonful of olive oil over medium heat.

Once the oil is hot, pour the egg and potato mixture into the frying pan.

When the mixture has set on the bottom, flip it out onto a large plate and then return it, now upside down, to the pan.

Cook for three more minutes - ready to serve!