Man angers the French by loving his potato too much

A California man's praise of a potato-themed restaurant has caused a social media uproar overseas.

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On left, a bunch of raw potatoes; on right, the Eiffel tower
Photo: Pxhere via Wikimedia Commons (Fair Use), NonOmnisMoriar via Wikimedia Commons (Fair Use)

Back in the old days, it was possible for a man to go to France and eat potatoes without causing an international incident. But in this age of gadgets, gizmos, and non-stop social media pics of what people are eating for lunch, global outrage has seemingly become a regular occurrence. Why, remember when The New York Times printed a recipe for a non-traditional spaghetti carbonara and the entire nation of Italy collectively lost its shit? And now an American tourist has set the world ablaze simply by tweeting his appreciation for a fine French potato.

Eater San Francisco explains that it all began when Steve and Melissa Olson of Oakland, California, recently enjoyed a vacation in Arles, France. Arles is a UNESCO heritage city in the Provence region well known for its rich history, and stunning medieval architecture. It also has a La Pataterie: a potato-centric restaurant chain that Steve Olson described as a French version of Chili’s. The couple was searching the internet looking for a casual dinner option close to their hotel and found themselves positively tickled by the idea of a potato-forward dining experience (as they should be). They expected to be amused, but did not expect to be blown away, as evidenced by Olson’s Twitter thread.

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Olson extended his potato praise into an eight-tweet thread, because who would think that appreciating a good potato could lead to ridiculous consequences? But that’s exactly what happened. As Olson recalled in an interview with Eater, “I made some jokes, [and] went to bed. It was not at all what I expected when I threw a couple f-bombs into a thread about potatoes.”

As he slept, Twitter erupted into a firestorm of outraged French people, who apparently don’t feel the same about La Pataterie, and have many, many opinions about the eating habits of Americans.

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Currently, Olson’s collection of potato tweets has received over 38,000 likes, 6,500 retweets, and more indignant replies than I can count. Many Europeans used the tweets as a springboard to voice their contempt for America’s severly broken food system, and their disgust over what qualifies as “good food” in the U.S. On the plus side, it’s helped generate some major buzz for a rare species of French potato, which is nice.

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So what exactly was so great about the potato that changed Steve Olson’s life?He tells Eater that it had a superbly creamy interior, with a crispy exterior that retained its structural integrity thanks to the “waxy and thin skin.” It was also covered in a thick sheet of melted gruyere and ham, and served with sides of raclette, herbed creme fraiche, and two tiny cornichons. How something like this can displease Twitter, we’ll never understand.