For much of the 18th century potatoes were illegal in France

From 1748 to 1772 potatoes were illegal in France. The French Parliament forbade the anyone to grow potatoes because they were thought to cause leprosy.

During this time Antoine-Augustin Parmentier promoted potatoes as a food source. They were previously used as hog feed and food for the Irish.

Parmentier performed elaborate publicity stunts to promote potatoes, hosting dinners at which potato dishes like mashed potato with ground meat featured prominently and guests included celebrities of the day like Benjamin Franklin and Antoine Lavoisier. Parmentier would give bouquets of potato blossoms to the King and Queen.

He also used the “forbidden fruit” technique; surrounding his potato patch with armed guards to suggest valuable goods — and then telling the guards to take bribes from civilians and withdrawing the guards at night so the greedy crowd could “steal” the potatoes.


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