For a long time considered inedible, the potato has become one of the most popular and beloved foods thanks to the French pharmacist Antoine Auguste Parmentier
Antoine Auguste Parmentier was born on August 12, 1737 in the city of Montdidier.
He became an apprentice to a pharmacist in his native city, and completed his pharmaceutical education in Paris. The Seven Years' War in Europe (1757–1763) helped him discover the potato, which was brought to Europe from America in the middle of the 17th century.
Food for pigs and prisoners
Once captured in Prussia, he tasted potatoes, which were considered so inedible that they preferred to feed them to pigs and prisoners. Parmentier unexpectedly liked the taste of the potato, and most importantly, he appreciated its nutritional qualities.
Back in France, Parmentier began to study the plant, which the Paris Medical Academy considered unhealthy and banned from being used as food. The ban was lifted only in 1772, largely thanks to the efforts of Parmentier.
To make the French fall in love with potatoes, Parmentier invented new dishes from them and arranged dinner parties with famous guests. He offered potato bread, potato soup, potato porridge (apparently the prototype of mashed potatoes) and even potato jam.
His most famous trick, invented to popularize the potato, was the armed guard of a small potato field, which was allocated to him in 1787 by King Louis XVI. At night, the soldiers left the plantings unattended, and the local peasants had the opportunity to steal the tubers and get to know the exotic plant, in which only flowers were previously valued. They were used for costume decorations and hairstyles by noble ladies.
The decree authorizing the planting of potatoes was issued by Louis XVI, but this root crop became really popular in France only in the hungry revolutionary years. In 1795, it was grown in besieged Paris, even in the Tuileries Garden.
Not potatoes alone
The last years of his life, Parmentier worked as an inspector general of health in the Napoleonic army. He did a lot to research and popularize corn and chestnuts. During the continental blockade of Napoleonic France, he studied methods for obtaining sugar from grapes and methods for preserving food.
A Paris metro station and several dishes are named after Parmentier, primarily mashed potato soup and a simple potato casserole, gratin parmentier, in which between the layers of mashed potatoes is minced meat with onions and garlic.
Potage Parmentier – potato and leek soup
25 g unsalted butter
< strong>half of an onion, sliced into rings
2 large leeks(white part only), sliced into rings
1 liter of aromatic chicken broth
350 g mealy potatoes, peeled and finely chopped
120 ml heavy cream
1 st. spoon finely chopped chives, salt and freshly ground black pepper
Step 1 . Heat the butter in a saucepan, add the chopped onion and leek. Cover and simmer until tender, but do not let the vegetables brown.
Step 2. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil.
Step 3 . Add the potatoes and simmer for 25-30 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
Step 4. Pour the soup into a blender and puree until smooth.
Step 5. Pour the soup back into the saucepan, heat gently again, add the cream and a little salt.
Serve immediately, garnish with finely chopped chives.
Add 75 g finely chopped greens along with the cream. Tarragon, chervil and parsley will do. Serve chilled.
Add 200 g of blanched spinach, onions and leeks. Leek can be replaced with celery.
Skillfully prepared soup can be very tasty and at the same time inexpensive, act as an appetizer, light dinner or main course. Parmentier potage is easy to make and is often used as a base for creating variations on a theme.
From Paul Geiler's Potatoes. Queen of the European table. M.: Vokrug sveta Publishing House, 2011
Material published in August 2016, partially updated in August 2022