French destinies France

It is to him that the French owe the introduction of the potato: Monsieur Parmentier

It's hard to imagine not eating good French fries, mashed potatoes and so on... but this has been the case for centuries in France. Before the 18th century, no potatoes in the plate. The one who changed everything is a man and it is Mr. Parmentier. Here is his story:


A brief history of mashed potatoes


The potato came to us from America 


That's right! Before Christopher Columbus, there were no potatoes in the garden. Unimaginable today. No tomatoes either, mind you, but that's another story. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in America, they discovered not only the Incas, the Aztecs and so on, not only gold and silver, but also the potato, which has long been one of the favorite vegetables of the American Indians. They have been growing all kinds of potatoes for at least 10,000 years.

Object of curiosity for the Europeans, who make of it a medicine for some time, it slowly begins its entry on the old continent in the XVIIth century. The Italians consider it as a truffle. The French called it "cartoufle" at the beginning, which gave "kartofeln" to the Germans who were the first to consider it as a food to be cultivated on a more or less large scale. It was there that Mr. Parmentier discovered the potato... 


And Parmentier made it fashionable.

It arrived in France in the 18th century with Monsieur Parmentier. This Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (1737-1813) is an amazing character. He was a military pharmacist. Passionate about progress like his era, the Age of Enlightenment, he discovered the potato in Prussia, while he was a prisoner, during the 7 years war. This is what is served to the prisoners this potato porridge. It is nourishing and the vegetable is quite easy to grow. It is a solution to the famine that is still causing havoc in France where we are at the mercy of wheat or rye which are fragile. Bread is the staple food of the French, who pay a fortune for it (more than half of their salary) and which often runs out because of the weather for example. If it rains too much, the wheat does not grow, if it does not rain enough, the wheat does not grow either. With the potato no problem. 

Dessin botanique de la Pomme de terre / Par Amédée Masclef — Atlas des plantes de France. 1891, Domaine public . Wikimédia

Botanical drawing of the potato / By Amédée Masclef - Atlas des plantes de France. 1891, Public domain . Wikimedia

Parmentier's fight against preconceived ideas. 

It is far from being won because in France, except for a few regions such as Lorraine or Franche Comté, the potato is hated and considered a food for cattle. Moreover, they don't have the idea of cooking potatoes, which means that their flavor cannot be understood. Parrmentier did not give up. He presented his project at Versailles in 1786. After convincing King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette of the benefits of the potato, Parmentier persuaded them to help him by planting potatoes in the Sablons near Paris, a bad area where nothing grows. A few weeks later, he presented a bouquet of potato flowers to the king. Amazed, the king congratulates Parmentier: "France will thank you one day for having found the bread of the poor".

Strong in marketing, Parmentier makes the potato "trendy". 

Antoine-Auguste Parmentier (1737-1813), agronome et philanthrope 
Antoine-Auguste Parmentier (1737-1813), agronomist and philanthropist 

First, the queen promotes the potato. The king talks about the "bread of the poor" and the queen wears a potato flower in her lapel. It seems like nothing, but it makes people talk and arouses the curiosity of the Court and the City. Then, Parmentier cooks his potatoes and presents them to the "influencers" of the time. Princes, bishops, personalities like Benjamin Franklin, who tasted and promoted them in turn... That said, it was not until the 19th century that the potato penetrated the countryside and became the new staple food of the French, after bread, which is still today at the top of the list of favorite foods of the French. 


Why not the best french mashed potatoes recipe ? 


here is the joel robuchon's recipe. 

recipe of french mashed potatoes by

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.