Ten ounces of bread per day, one egg per week and three ounces of butter per month. In 1944, after Paris was freed from four years of Nazi occupation, food rationing remained severe and did not fully increase until 1949. A family received three ounces of meat per person, but was weighed with the bone still inside, so the actual serving of meat was even less.
Every weekend, Parisians went to the countryside by bicycle in search of vegetables that their friends could save. And what they found was not well-known staple foods, but generally cultivated remains for livestock. As Emily Monaco writes for Atlas Obscura, Nazi troops had taken over the majority of French food production. They redirected staple foods like potatoes and half of the country’s meat production.
The French, on the contrary, worked with what was left: robust root vegetables like rutabagas and Jerusalem artichokes. But after counting on them for almost a decade, many who have experienced rationing have chosen to never eat them again, earning the root vegetables known as “forgotten vegetables.”
Lasting negative associations with particular foods are not uncommon – memories involving food are often among the strongest, Vassar College psychologist Hadley Bergstrom told Julie Thomson at Huffington post in 2017.
The owner of the Parisian culinary school Le Foodist Fred Pouillot grew up in the center of France, and tells Atlas Obscura that his 86-year-old mother still “despises rutabagas” today. He adds, “She said that Jerusalem artichokes (Jerusalem artichokes) was the only thing she remembered eating during the good war. But she never cooked them again. “
A Jerusalem artichoke is a tuber, like a potato. It comes from a plant with a bright yellow flower, so its name in Italian is girasole, the word for sunflower. When the vegetable was picked up by English speakers, the Italian name changed to “Jerusalem” and “artichoke” was added to describe the flavor of the tuber, Enjoy your mealAndrew Knowlton reported in 2013.
Over the past decade, chefs have rekindled interest in Jerusalem artichokes. Peeled, boiled and mashed, sliced and fried, or whole roasted, the vegetables rebounded as interest in local products increased. But the chef and owner of the restaurant, René Redzepi, warned Enjoy your meal against serving them raw. Unlike potatoes, which are high in starch, Jerusalem artichokes are packed with another carbohydrate called inulin. Our bodies are less equipped to break down inulin, so eating raw Jerusalem artichokes or eating too much can cause gastrointestinal distress.
Before the occupation, Jerusalem artichokes were mainly grown in France to feed livestock. Decades later, vegetables are still associated with the plight of the 1940s for those who experienced it. The same goes for rutabagas.
“There is no Frenchman who does not have the memory of a grandmother or grandfather talking about the way we had nothing to eat, except for horrible rutabagas in 1943,” said Steven Kaplan, historian from Cornell University. Washington Post.
Rutabagas are like a cross between a turnip and a cabbage that appeared hundreds of years ago. 17th century Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin first described the strange vegetable in his 1620 book “Prologue to the exhibition of plants,” according to the New Yorker‘S Helen Rosner. Rutabaga leaves can be cooked like mustard leaves, and their large hairy roots can become as big as a human head, making them perfect for turning into vegetable noodles, writes Rosner.
For families who have experienced rationing, the rutabagas and artichokes from Jerusalem “just contributed to the idea of everything that was so horrible about the occupation.” The culinary historian of Paris Diderot University, Patrick Rambourg, tells Atlas Obscura. But as the vegetables gain traction, he says, “we may have to wait for the second or third generation. We are moving away from this history and this painful past of the Occupation. Over time, you know. Not in our memories. “