Sampling 100 years of Dutch cookery
This book uses colourful photographs, menus, stories and anecdotes to liven up the history of the much underrated art of cooking in the Netherlands.
I have always thought Dutch cookery sounded like an oxymoron, until I opened the pages of this small masterpiece, Dutch Cookery 1900-2000.
Stamp out the stamppot and hitch the hutspot, I say unabashedly. And the same goes for other mashed potato stews of this land which are smothered with instant, overtly chemical-tasting brown sauces that are equally putrid to the palette as they are insulting to the aesthetic dignity of a well-thought out presentation.
As an experimental chef (cooking being one of my prime passions), I've had to rack my brain to come up with one Dutch food crossover that successfully made it internationally outside of the herring circle.
And please do not tell me about peanut butter being a Dutch invention. It isn't. It's American, invented in 1890 in St Louis. Or, about pancakes and how the Dutch invented them and brought this recipe to the Americas. Wrong again.
Even so, peanut butter and pancakes do not make a dinner.
Phlegmatically, I began browsing through Dutch Cookery and discovered 10 delightfully presented and meticulously researched chapters, each one devoted to a decade in the 20th century, using recipes generally considered specific to that time period.
Fragments of history – photographs, menus, stories and anecdotes – adorn these pages to liven up a rather dull and parochial approach towards the food habits of yesteryear.
The authors try to credit the source of the recipes at all times and have studiously produced a sort of genealogical culinary tree of basic ingredient origins as well as usages in various types of kitchens throughout the land.
The reader will find peculiarly fascinating essays on vegetarianism, cheese, Indonesian cooking, Dutch porcelain and cutlery and the restaurant business in the Netherlands.
At the turn of the century the Dutch hardly ate fish. The chapter covering 1910 – 1919 is entitled, 'Our people should learn to eat fish!'
Within you can come across a 'colourful salad' aimed at vegetarians, with uncut leaves of mixed salad and lettuce or a delicious mussel hash, still served today at most fish stalls around the country.
With uncanny and amusing chapter titles such as 'How is the Camembert today?' covering 1950 –1959, one reads about the inaugural KLM Constellation flight hors d'oeuvre menu served to its passengers and about the golden oldie 'white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce', where "the sauce is very Dutch, although the French tried to steal it from us".
How about 'no more eel in chocolate sauce!' for the period 1980-1989. What on earth could this mean to the uninitiated?
It's a direct quote from the then Agricultural Minister who was speaking during a luncheon. At a time when nouvelle cuisine reached its zenith apparently even the modest Dutch were infatuated. One result is a recipe for tepid salad of wild boar's ham with poached pear, courtesy of the Amsterdam's Hilton Hotel.
Pre-fusion cooking unearths an avocado soup (page 140) by Chef Robert Baris of the Rotterdam restaurant world.
Another other worldly made-in-Holland original is Kate's mustard soup, a true Dutch treat! Invented in 1977 at Kaatje bij de Sluis in Blokzijl (still a Michelin star restaurant after 25 years) here's the secret:
- 1 litre (4 cups) fowl stock
- 75 g (2 ¾ oz.) chicken breast, skinned
- 100 ml (1/2 cup double cream
- 2 tablespoons coarse mustard (Zwolle style)
- In a large pan bring the stock to the boil. Place the chicken breast in it and cook until tender, approx. 5 minutes. Remove from stock and dice. Set aside.
- Cook the broth down to about 750 ml (3 cups).
- In a bowl whisk the cream until stiff. Add this with mustard to the boiling stock and whisk well. Add salt.
- Divide diced chicken into 4 pre-heated soup bowls, pour soup over and serve.
Nico de Rooij, one of three authors is the president of the Dutch Culinary Art Foundation, Janny de Moor is a culinary writer who specialises in the history of cookery and has 17 cookery books to her name while Albert Tielemans is a former chef and culinary consultant who further developed and co-ordinated all the recipes in this book.
Dutch Cookery 1900-2000 – savouring a century
Janny de Moor, Nico de Rooij, Albert Tielemans
Dutch Culinary Art Foundation
P.O. Box 538
2003 RM Haarlem
Tel: 0031 23 524 13 73
The English translation of the original is available at one bookshop in the Netherlands:
Boekhandel van Rossum
1077 JH Amsterdam
Tel: 020 470 7077
28 June 2004
Elise Krentzel / Expatica
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