Sometimes It Takes a Famine

Story of the Day for Thursday February 2, 2012

Sometimes It Takes a Famine


“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land. Not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord.” 

                                                              Amos 8:11


If you would’ve walked into a fast food restaurant 300 years ago and ordered a cheeseburger, no one would’ve asked you, “Would you like fries with your order?”  Potatoes hadn’t been invented yet — at least not in Europe and North America.


When the Spanish conquistadors raided the Incan Empire in 1532, who could’ve convinced them that the greatest treasure they stole was not gold, but a tuber?

In Peru the conquistadors discovered the potato, and by the early 1600s it was introduced to many European countries.

The Europeans had stumbled onto an amazing vegetable. It could be stored for up to ten years. The plant was so adaptable it could be grown in hot or cold, wet or arid climates. The potato helped mitigate scurvy, tuberculosis, and dysentery. It was remarkably nutritious. Besides providing a high source of carbohydrate, it was rich in vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. It supplied every vital nutrient except calcium and vitamins A and D.


Yet, except as fodder for livestock, the potato was almost universally scorned. Some rejected it because it came from a heathen land. The Orthodox Church argued that potatoes were suspect because there was no mention of them in the Bible. Others, noticing the plant’s similarity to poisonous nightshade, considered it the creation of witches or demons. Before long, the potato was accused of causing leprosy, sterility, and sexual sin. The town of Besancon, France, fined anyone caught growing potatoes.

European leaders, on the other hand, realized the potato could stave off famine during poor wheat harvests. In 1771, the Faculté de Paris declared that the potato was not harmful, but beneficial. It was no use; the peasants wanted nothing to do with it.


What did the European nobility do to encourage the populace to accept the potato? They banned it. Frederick the Great of Prussia decreed that only royalty could eat potatoes.  He then created royal potato gardens and posted guards (while secretly telling them not to guard the crop closely). King Louis XVI of France wore a potato blossom in his buttonhole as a symbol of royalty, and Marie-Antoinette wore the same in her hair.

Before long, potatoes were selling for highly inflated prices on the black market. Everyone wanted the vegetable that had been banned.


God warned his people that when they began to lose interest in the words of the prophets and the writings of Scripture, he would take his Word away from them.

Sometime it takes a famine to reawaken our longing for what is truly valuable.

(copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)