Sunday, July 29, 2012


Friday, July 13, 2012
French cuisine and French culture are practically synonymous, so we are celebrating 
Bastille Day (July 14) by highlighting some of Schlesinger’s culinary books from late-
18th-century France. Grain shortages and the consequent increase in bread prices were 
among the causes of the French Revolution, and the food supply was also a problem for 
the new government. The following publications offer insight into some of the disruptions 
and continuities of life in the First French Republic.
Prior to the Revolution, books were approved for publication by royal 
censors and bore the phrase “Avec approbation et privilege du Roi” 
(With approval and favor of the King). The king could also order the publication 
of a work, as shown here in the 1789 Traité sur la culture et les usages des 
Pommes de terre, de la Patate, et du Topinambour (Treaty on the culture and 
use of the potato, sweet potato, and Jerusalem artichoke) by Antoine-Augustin 
Parmentierwhich was"published and printed by order of the King.”
Title page to Traité
[Title page from Treaty on the culture and use of the potato, sweet potato and J
erusalem artichoke by Antoine-Augustin Parmentier published in 1789 (by order 
of the King). Find the book in HOLLIS or read a full-text version online.]
The Faculté de Médicine de Paris had approved the potato for food in the early 
1770s, but people still had their doubts. In the forward to the Traité, Parmentier 
notes the recent bad weather and mediocre harvests that had forced people to 
reconsider the potato—especially since the potato seemed to do well when grain 
harvests were bad. Most of the book is about cultivation, with a small section on 
cooking potatoes and on potato bread.
[Foreword assuring the edibility of potatoes from Antoine-Augustin Parmentier's 
Treaty on the culture and use of the potato, sweet potato and Jerusalem artichoke.]
Originally published in the French Republican year III (1794/1795) and attributed 
to Madame Mérigot, La Cuisinière républicaine sought to teach simple ways of preparing 
and preserving potatoes. In the Schlesinger Library’s facsimile reprint, published in 1976, 
the introduction identifies this publication as the first cookbook of the Republic and the 
first collection of potato recipes.
Title page to La Cuisinière républicaine
[Title page from The female republican cook, that teaches a simple manner of 
preparing potatoes; with some advice on the steps necessary for preserving them
attributed to Madame Mérigot  and published in the French Republican year III (
1794/1795) Find the book in HOLLIS.]
Another culinary book published during the French Republican year III (1794) was 
Leçons élémentaires sur la choix & la conservation des grains by Louis Cotte, a 
former Father Superior who had renounced his vows during the deschristianization 
of France. Intended for the edification of “les bonnes Ménageres,” or good 
housewives, the book gives catechetical lessons on various aspects of grain 
production and bread making, including a section on potato bread (lesson 10) 
while actively encouraging a new Republican identity.
Title page to Leçons élémentaires
[Title page from Elementary lessons on the selection and conservation of 
grains, on the operation of mills and bakeries, and on the bread tax by 
Louis Cotte published in the French Republican year III (1794) Find the 
book in HOLLIS.]
ère républicaine:

Here are two recipes from La Cuisini[Potato salad recipe from La Cuisinière républicaine
"When the potatoes are cooked, cut them up and season them with oil, vinegar, fines herbes 
[parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil], salt and pepper; or, instead of oil, butter or cream: 
eat this salad hot or cold. Another way, with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, yellow beets and sliced gherkins."]

Potato bread recipe from La Cuisinière républicaine

[Potato bread recipe from La Cuisinière républicaine:
 "Those who bake can mix potatoes in their 
bread, half or even more. Crush the potatoes still warm
with a rolling pin, then mix with the dough 
and knead together."]

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