When being robbed becomes free advertisement : from cruffin to potato

When last week, I was in L.A – at the Palisades, to be precise, at my co-writer's wonderful house overlooking the Pacific ocean – gosh I miss it, I read a fascinating article in the New York Times on March 9th. A bakery was robbed in San Francisco. When the perpetrator steals the money from the till, that is not news, but when he or she steals the recipe of the Cruffin without taking the money, and runs, it makes headlines. What is Cruffin ?, you may ask. A cruffin is the Toyota Yaris for breakfast. An hybrid version of croissant and muffin, which I personally haven't tested. I must say it sounds awkward to me, who loves pure tastes. I always prefer the real thing. Mind you the croissant at « Maison Giraud » in the Palisades are really as good as in Paris...

What is the message in between the headlines of the stolen recipe. San Francisco Cruffin tastes so good, that nobody thought of stealing the money from the till. Just the fact that someone loved it so much as to steal the recipe makes me want to bite in it. Isn't it the best possible piece of advertisement ? This reminds me of how the potato was introduced in France, before the Revolution. Under the reign of Louis XVI, during the Seven year war, France is ruined, the French are hungry. An apothecary, an agronomist and a nutritionist, Antoine Parmentier,

suggests that potato could replace wheat and become « the bread of the Poor ». While he was prisoner in Germany he tasted potatoes and thinks potato starch could help in these dearth periods. Scientists analyse potato and come to the conclusion that it is not dangerous for men. Parmentier will have prestigious hosts like the scientist Lavoisier or Benjamin Franklin for guinea pigs. At the time, potato is something you give to livestock and religious, a kind of « underfood ». He needs to make it fashionable. The queen Marie Antoinette, the first lady wears a potato flower in her hair, the king on his buttonhole. A bit like, when Carla Bruni wearing turtlenecks made them popular again...

But the French have the reputation of being reluctant to anything they have not decided about, and they are, especially when it comes to food. So Parmentier's genius idea is simple : he grows potatoes on the royal fields and has them watched by soldiers in arms during the day, but not during the night. Quite efficient, it seems : If it is worth having guards protecting this royal food, it must be delicious. The result of this is immediate. French people steal potatoes at night and love it, love it. In one night, they succumb to the forbidden fruit. They are going to become addicted to this vegetable, and the elite is going to rediscover what Parmentier skillfully will rename the « vegetable from the castle », a gentleman farmer delicacy. Parmentier who left his name to the hâchis parmentier (minced meat with mashed potatoes) was also to work on chestnut, corn, flour and was to establish the first … bakery school. He now lies at the Père Lachaise, the celebrity cemetery. I bet he rolled over in his grave when he heard about cruffins...  

 

 

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