Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 8, 2009


Smithsonian Magazine - According to the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Web site, the bespectacled printer, author and inventor was a fan of such native foods as cranberries, maple syrup and Indian corn, which he called "one of the most agreeable and wholesome grains in the world."

But he was also interested in the foods of other cultures. He learned about tofu while in London, and his 1770 letter to John Bartram in Pennsylvania, accompanied by a few soybeans and a description of a "cheese" made from them in China, is the first documented mention of tofu by an American. . .

A few years ago there was a patriotic (or at least Francophobic) drive to rename french fries as freedom fries. If he could have looked into the future, Franklin might have been amused by the tuber-related kerfuffle. After all, in his day the French thought potatoes-fried or otherwise-were poisonous, or at the very least unpalatable, and Franklin took part in changing their minds about this New World vegetable.

Representing the newly independent United States, Franklin was a guest of honor at a dinner party thrown by the French pharmacist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, where every course was made from potatoes as part of a campaign to promote potatoes as the answer to wheat-crop failures. A few years later, during France's own revolution, Parmentier was vindicated when potatoes were embraced as "revolutionary food."


Anonymous connoisseur said...

Ah, Benjamin Franklin...always on a roll.

Oh, I'll have one, please - with relish!

July 9, 2009 12:14 PM  

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