I have been hard at work reading up on renaissance French food of late, in preparation for the upcoming Politarchopolin Fields of Gold event, for which I am head chef.
Apparently there is some argument about the three recipes in the Ouveture de Cuisine (1604) for tartoufle. One translated version of the recipe book has this as potato.. but is it?
The word "truffle" comes from the Vulgar Latin "tufera", itself derived from the Latin tuber.Within period the truffle was known as "tartufi" and "tartufoli" and the potato as "tartuffo" and "tartuffolo". You can see why there might be some cause for confusion eh?
Apparently the word "taratoufli" was inscribed on the pot in which a potato was planted by Clusius in 1588.
The word "tartufflo" as the word for a potato was then converted by Olivier de Serres in 1600 into "Cartoufle", which leads nicely into the German "kartoffel" that we see today, and its many variations in other countries. *
Seems pretty straight forward.
Cotgrave's 1611 French English dictionary has a little to say on this too... it doesn't contain any reference to the potato that I have been able to find so far, but does have:
Truffe: a gibe, mocke, flowt, jeast, gullerie; also a saligo, or water nut; also, a most daintie kind of round and russet root, or rootie excresence, which grows in forests, or dry and sandie grounds, and within the ground, but without any stalk, leafe or fiber annexed unto it.
To complicate things, in France to this day, in a geographical area from Burgundy to Provence, truffles are called "tartoufle". An indeed, conversely, apparently in other regions of France, up to Belgium, potatoes may be called "trufle", "truffe", "trefe", "trife", "trufa" or "trufo" or even more!
I am still on the hunt for more information on this... I hope to have more information soon. In the meantime, feel free to tell me what you think....
*History and social influence of the potato by Redcliffe N Salaman and William Glynn Burton