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Re: food

Poster: "Greg Lindahl" <lindahl@pbm.com>

> Greetings!  I was just reading off a web page that mentioned that "Regular
> potatoes were also either boiled or roasted" during the Elizabethan period.
>  Had these been imported from the colonies at this time or is this source
> incorrect?

Cariadoc has this to say in his Miscellany:


Sweet potatoes are described in 1555 as growing in the West Indies. By 1587
they are said to be "brought out of" Spain and Portugal, and described as
venerous (aphrodisiacal). In 1599 Ben Johnson describes something as "above all
your potatoes or oyster pies."

Ordinary potatoes, according to the OED, were described in 1553 and introduced
into Spain shortly after 1580. They reached Italy about 1585 and were being
grown in England by 1596. By 1678 the potato is described as "common in English

The <i>Larousse</i> gives somewhat earlier dates-1539 or 40 for the original
importation into Spain, 1563 for the introduction into England ("but its
cultivation was neglected there") and 1586 for the reintroduction by Sir
Francis Drake. In 1593 several farmers were engaged to grow it in France, but
in 1630 "the Parliament of Besan&ccedil; on, from fear of leprosy, forbade the
cultivation of the potato." In 1619 "Potato figures among the foods to be
served at the Royal table in England."

Both sorts of potatoes were being grown in parts of Europe before 1600, but it
is not clear whether either was common enough to have been served at a feast.
If served, potatoes would almost certainly have been regarded as a novelty. I
know of no period recipes using potatoes.

According to Crosby, the sweet potato arrived in China "at least as early as
the 1560's."


-- Gregory Blount
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