© Marc de Ferrière le Vayer

"The Potato - From the Renaissance to the 21st Century, History, Society, Economy, Culture"


Within the framework of the project to list culinary and gastronomic heritage with UNESCO's intangible heritage, CeRMAHVA and IEHCA are organising a major international colloquium on the Potato in Tours in 2008, november. This colloquium also corresponds to France's hosting of the World Potato Congress.

A seemingly commonplace vegetable, in that it is so embedded into our customs, the potato is however a product whose appearance on the plate of Westerners is only relatively recent, in the 18th century, and is still unknown in whole regions of the globe. A vital resource in the family vegetable garden for ages, its place in contemporary society can be appreciated through the extent of the agro-foods sector that it has generated in Europe and in the United States. It is also present in everyone's mind, in terms of its diseases or the famine in Ireland, or for the various forms in which it is consumed: French or Belgian chips, dehydrated flakes, crisps, etc. It has been represented pictorially, such as in scenes of daily life that Van Gogh has dedicated to it. The subject of public regulations or production incentives, the potato is not foreign to political choices in special circumstances involving conflicts. Although potato consumption decreases as the standard of living increases, it has nevertheless engendered numerous commercial strategies, involving the marketing of new species or which come back into fashion, as well as packaging that is adapted to practical and nutritional requirements. Once again, it has recently won over the tables of the grand chefs.

This international colloquium is aiming to cover all of the themes that have anything to do with the potato and there are no limits, not only from a historical standpoint, but also from standpoints of an economic and geographical, artistic and sociologic, scientific and medical nature. It is not limited to the contemporary period, and it is not restricted to France; this colloquium wants to attempt to provide an overall view of the place held by the potato across civilisations.