By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
This tres chic comfort food is made with potatoes and is dedicated to the man who taught the French to love this delicious tuber. You see, when the potato arrived in Europe with the Spanish Conquistadors, it was very unpopular for a couple of centuries. In fact, the French Parliament officially banned potatoes in 1748. Potatoes were considered “hog food” and dangerous for people’s health.
It was an army pharmacist named Antoine Auguste Parmentier who made the potato famous and so well-loved by the Old World. Parmentier was captured by Prussians during the Seven Years' War, and during his imprisonment, he ate a lot of potatoes. He experimented with the tuber and discovered the great benefits of the potato.
When the war was over, Parmentier was released, and he returned to his studies in Paris. By 1772, his mission was to prove to the French that potatoes were healthy and delicious. His pioneering work led to the French government repealing the potato ban that very same year. In 1773, he even won an award from the Academy of Besançon for research that proved potatoes were a great source of nutrition for people suffering from dysentery and became integral nutrition to fight famine.
Saluta la patata!
Here is one of the recipes that became popular at the table of the King of France.
(Leek and Potato Soup) Serves 6 1 lb. leeks, white part only 3 oz. butter 3 quarts chicken broth 2 lb. potatoes, peeled quartered 2 oz. butter 1/2 cup heavy cream
Fresh chives, minced
Salt and pepper
Croutons Wash and mince leeks. Sauté in butter over low heat. Do not brown.
In a large saucepan, combine leeks, chicken broth, and potatoes.
Cover and simmer for 30–40 minutes.
Taste the soup and add salt to your liking.
Mash well with two forks until creamy, without lumps.
Stir in butter and cream. Sprinkle with a dash of black pepper and chives.
Serve hot with croutons.
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), The Grimore, The Magic of the Moon, and Magic Herbs (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).