Gilbert White (1720-1793) was an English cleric and naturalist whose home was Selborne in Hampshire. Much of his detailed observation of the natural world (and the human one) was recorded in letters he wrote to other naturalists and scientists, and these were compiled in a book called The Natural History of Selborne. In a letter he wrote on this day in 1778, he mused on the possible causes of leprosy (particularly the dietary) – and in the course of this gives us a strong clue as to the timing of the acceptance of the potato as a useful crop in
To The Honourable Daines Barrington
In all ages the leprosy has made dreadful havoc among mankind…. Some centuries ago this horrible distemper prevailed all
It was an interesting turnaround for the potato – to be given as an example of the profusion of healthy vegetables available for the poor, and thereby contributing to the disappearance of leprosy. One of the things that delayed the adoption of the potato in
Cookbooks of the eighteenth century do contain recipes for ‘potatoes’, but often this means the sweet potato. It is not always possible to be certain which potato is being referred to in a recipe. Sometimes the ‘ordinary’ white potato was referred to as the
Which type of potato do you think Mrs Elizabeth Raffald expects you to use in this recipe from The Experienced English Housewife (1769)?
To scollop Potatoes.
Boil your potatoes, then beat them fine in a bowl with good cream, a lump of butter and salt. Put them into scolloped shells, make them smooth on top, score them with a knife. Lay thin slices of butter on the top of them, put them in a Dutch oven to brown before the fire. Three shells is enough for a dish.
[P.S. There are more historic potato recipes HERE.]
Tomorrow’s Story …
Quotation for the Day …
What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow. A.A. Milne.