Why Potatoes Appear On Frenchman’s Grave



If you amble through Paris’s popular Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, among the tombs of celebrated philosophers, singers, and playwrights, you may discover a grave surrounded by potato plants. If an admirer has stopped by recently, there may even be a tuber resting atop the tombstone. The unusually adorned grave is the final resting place of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, history’s greatest potato promoter. When he was born in 1737, the French disdained potatoes. Farmers grew them as animal feed, but they were seen as unfit for human consumption. While serving as an army pharmacist for France in the Seven Years' War, Parmentier was captured by the Prussians, and during his captivity he was fed only potatoes. From all the negative things that had been said about potatoes, Parmentier expected to die from his steady diet of them, and when he didn't he made it his life’s mission to convince the world of the nutritional value of potatoes. Due largely to Parmentier's efforts, the Paris Faculty of Medicine declared potatoes edible in 1772. Now, his tomb is decorated with potatoes as a tribute.