I: Potato

There's a dude who basically invented eating potatoes.

Potatoes chilling with their best friends, garlic and onion. Photo by Monika Stawowy / Unsplash
Potatoes chilling with their best friends, garlic and onion. Photo by Monika Stawowy / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is primidi, the 11th of Vendémiaire, Year CCXXXI. Today we celebrate la pomme de terre, the most versatile underground food ever.

Yep, you can grow a potato plant from a potato. The spuds are seed cones of the plant, and will sprout when buried in nutrient-rich soil and given some water. But don't expect much from store-bought potatoes. Most commercially sold spuds are sprayed with a sprout killer to keep them from growing little strings on your counter.

It's incredible that the potato is on this calendar at all. When it was first introduced to Europe by the Spanish, it was immediately dismissed as hog feed and suspected of causing diseases, probably because eating them raw is: 1) unpleasant, 2) difficult to digest, and 3) potentially deadly, thanks to solanine, a compound found in high quantities in sprouting or green potatoes, and which causes nausea, vomiting, and worse.

Overconsumption of raw potatoes – probably witness in farm animals rather than experienced by humans – led to visible sickness. This gave potatoes a terrible reputation. In fact, it was so bad, France banned potatoes in 1748 for human consumption on the assertion that eating potatoes caused leprosy.

It took a food scientist to rehabilitate the potato reputation in France, and even then, he was still working on it when the revolution hit and this calendar was created. While their inclusion on a calendar / almanac of this nature seems obvious in our time, when potatoes are eaten a million different ways, in 1793 potatoes were probably the most misunderstood and controversial food in France. The coincidental timing of Antoine-Auguste Parmentier's somewhat scammy pro-potato propaganda and the convulsions of the revolution couldn't have been more perfect.