Thursday, 18 August 2016
Court Ministry - Hofmarshal – Imperial Kitchen, Table Service (1)
Sixty bags of potatoes ‘for the Imperial table’ were ordered in 1876 from England, through the famous Nicolls & Plinke shop on the Nevsky Prospekt.
Van Gogh’s 1881 ‘Man Putting Potatoes Into A Sack’
A crisis then spread rapidly within the Court Ministry. The Customs Department in St. Petersburg prohibited the import of the potatoes and ordered the vendor to return the products.
Court officials argued strenuously and loudly with Customs who refused to lift the ban.
Customs’ officials stated that they consider ‘themselves entitled to make an order to prohibit the potatoes, even for the highest command, following the ruling of April 11th, 1875 that, without exception, importation of potatoes into Russia is prohibited’.
The ruling was because of the threat of the spread of the American Colorado potato beetle into Russia.
The Court initiated an imperial command to the Minister of Finance for exclusive permission to allow the potatoes as they were ‘intended solely for the table of His Majesty’.
Customs were then ordered to return the potatoes which were already at the Verzhbolovo border station. Sixty bags of ‘golden’ potatoes finally reached its destination in the kitchen of the Winter Palace.
A potato issue surfaced again ten years later. Alexander III reversed the rules for the provisioning of the palaces in order to economize. The Court department in 1886 was prohibited from importing provision such as potatoes, pork and lard and they had to buy cheaper local products.