This is how Dutch food culture came about

For thousands of years, other cultures have influenced what we eat. How did the Dutch food culture come about? We dive back in time for that.


For thousands of years, other cultures have influenced what we eat. How did the Dutch food culture come about? We dive back in time for that.

"People often have a wrong view of Dutch cuisine. For example, we have only been eating potato dishes for a few hundred years and, moreover, the Netherlands was only internationally recognized as a sovereign state in 1648," says Jon Verriet, cultural historian at Radboud University.

We know what people ate in the Iron Age through archeology. In the area that we now call the Netherlands, bones of calves, pigs, sheep and goats have been found. Many products have also been found in the stomach contents of well-preserved peat bogs such as grains, forest fruits, broad beans, tubers and herbs such as sheep sorrel, bear's claw and hut hut.

In 1000 BC the Romans brought all kinds of products with them such as chicken, apples, pears, bread and wine. There have also been found remains from that time of products that cannot grow here. "In archaeological excavations from that time, stone fruits of almonds, olive seeds and date seeds were found," says historian and founder of a historic dining studio Manon Henzen.


Exchange of tomatoes and tobacco

After Columbus made contact between Europe and America in 1492, an extensive exchange of agricultural varieties arose between the Old and New world. This was called the Colombian exchange. Tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, chili pepper, corn, tobacco and cocoa were added to our diet.

They are products that we now find very normal, but they only arrived in our area after that period. "At that time people did not dare to eat the potato, because parts of the plant were poisonous. It was not until the eighteenth century that the tuber was used in the kitchen," Verriet explains.

"People used to dare not eat the potato." Jon Verriet, cultural historian

At that time people could not have imagined that the Netherlands would later become one of the largest exporters of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

Affordable coffee, tea and cane sugar

The Dutch East India Company (VOC) brought coffee, tea, cane sugar and all kinds of spices around the seventeenth century. These included pepper, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon. All these products were already present in our area, but became more affordable for the middle class due to the trade of the VOC. Previously, these valuables were only found in the kitchens of wealthy citizens.

The success of the Dutch trade led to many culinary influences from outside. Dutch-Indian cuisine was born in the time of the VOC. The Indian rice table is, for example, a European invention. The Dutch talent for acting actually ensured that the kitchen became more varied.

But it is unclear what was made with these products. "Unfortunately, many notes of recipes have disappeared before that time," says Meerman. The first Dutch-language cookbook comes from Brussels and dates from the year 1514. Meerman: "In this cookbook at least one third of the recipes are of French descent. It used to be quite normal for recipes to be translated from English, French or Italian cuisine and transferred. "

Jan-in-the-bag is a recipe from the nineteenth century that is suspected to be Dutch. In this recipe, the bread is not baked in the oven, but slowly cooked in a pan of boiling water.

Difference between rich and poor

Since time immemorial, there has been a big difference between the menu of the rich and the poor. Verriet: "Poor people were often forced to eat vegetarian food. On some days poor people ate cereals or potatoes three times a day."

Meat was kept for special occasions. Nutrition was more important than taste. The situation was different for the well-to-do middle class. Products such as meat and vegetables were plentiful and special merchandise could be purchased. There was room for creativity and innovation in the kitchen. In the past, being a vegetarian was not a choice.

See also: This is why more people eat less meat

After the Second World War, the Dutch wig was especially very austere. During that time, guest workers from Poland, Yugoslavia and Greece came to the Netherlands. They mainly came to work in the coal mines. In the 1960s the Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese followed to work in heavy industry.

In the mid-sixties there were also guest workers from Turkey and Morocco. They also brought new kitchens and recipes with them. More and more Dutch people went on holiday during this period. They also wanted to be able to prepare the dishes they tasted in distant places. This was called the culinary revolution of the sixties.

"We used to see oats as horse feed, but now it's hip again." Manon Henzen, historian

"Taste changes over time"

"Maybe tastes about time change too," Henzen explains. Some products stay and others disappear. Products such as hemp seed and chia seed are now being reinvented. A few years ago you could only buy these products at the bird shop.

"Another example is oats. That used to be poor food, twenty years ago it was mainly horse food and now it's hip again. You notice that there is a health trend these days. People even put kale in their drink and so choose healthy over tasty."

ref: nunl