The Dutch cuisine: Dutch?
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Meat and fish
New trends
The Dutch cuisine

In the part ‘Food and Culture’ is described that real (‘authentic’) national cuisines do not exist. National cuisines are in a process of constant reinvention, absorbing new influences and letting some traditions die out (Bell & Valentine, 1997). While keeping this in mind, it is nevertheless tried to characterize the Dutch Cuisine. When you want to analyze the global influences on the Dutch cuisine it is necessary to state beforehand what is typically Dutch. This description of the Dutch cuisine is mainly based on the book Dutch Delight, which is about typical Dutch food (Pessireron, 2005).

Potatoes ^Top^
The Dutch cuisine can be symbolized by the famous painting of Vincent van Gogh
‘The Potato Eaters’. This painting shows a family in Nuenen sitting around the
table, sharing a pot with potatoes. Whether boiled, fried or deep-fried, potatoes
are still an indispensable part of Dutch cuisine. To make a comparison with
something which is also typically Dutch: for most Dutch people, a hot meal without
potatoes is like a bicycle without pedals.The potatoe first appeared in the Nether-
lands around 1600.

It wasn’t long before the potato’s vast potential came to light: it flourished in all kinds of soil, yielded enormous harvests, and the flavour improved rapidly as new cultivation techniques emerged. In the Netherlands, potatoes are nearly always accompanied by meat and vegetables. The consumer can choose between an astounding 250 potato varieties that all differ in colour, taste, shape and method of preparation.

The potato is the key ingredient in stamppot: a simple dish of potatoes mashed with vegetables. According to Pessiseron (2005) no food embodies traditional Dutch cuisine better than this. Stamppot is a symbol of soberness, hard labour and moderation and is therefore an example of food loaded with symbolic meaning (see the part ‘Food and Culture’). Stamppot developed in the times that Dutch cooking was centred on one cooking pot. The people who could afford it could add a horseshoeshaped smoked sausage: the Dutch rookworst, which is also still popular. Stamppot is still considered the most important exponent of Dutch cuisine, through the ages it has not declined in popularity. It is a classic winter fare. As soon as autumn comes around a taste for stamppot surfaces in the Dutch subconscious, only to fade away again with the first spring sunshine.

Vegetables ^Top^ As mentioned above potatoes are generally eaten with vegetables and meat. This habit began around 1850, when new kitchen tools and methods of preparation replaced the ‘one-pot cooking’. The different varieties of cabbage, endive, green beans and carrots are among the most widely consumed vegetables in the Netherlands.

Especially cauliflower is an all-time favourite. A plate piled high with boiled potatoes,
a meatball in gravy and cauliflower with cheese sauce is a Dutch classic. Another famous
vegetable are Brussels sprouts, which were particularly popular in the 1950’s. The smell
of this vegetable is very strong. In Dutch vernacular, the scent of boiled sprouts (spruitjeslucht)
has therefore become synomynous for the Dutch 1950’s, referring to the narrow mindedness
of that period.

Meat and fish ^Top^ Meat is also an important ingredient of the daily hot meal. The majority of Dutch people eat meat every day. Traditionally, Wednesdays are always ‘mince’ day, largely because on that particular day mince was always on special offer at the local butchers. The Dutch eat all kinds of meat, ranging from pork chops, slavink (a kind of meatball wrapped in bacon) and veal schnitzel, to beef stew, steak and mince. The Dutch have always loved meat, and, especially in the past, when they ate meat, they ate a lot. Typically Dutch is the meatball accompanied by gravy. As a simple sauce made from the juices of the meat, gravy is as important to the Dutch as the meat it is made from.

Because a quarter of the country lies below sea level, the Dutch and water go together

as potatoes and gravy. Fishing has always played a
major role in Dutch subsistence. The Dutch therefore
eat a lot of fish, and not only because of its alleged
health benefits. Dutch people love rich food, and one
of their favorite dishes is a simple one: a battered
and deep-fried fillet of cod. The most popular Dutch
fish snack is raw herring with onions, the herring

being taken by its tail and held in the air above one’s mouth (the person’s head lying in
the neck) before the herring slowly disappears in one’s throat. Other fish that is eaten
are mackerel, haddock, sole, pollack, salmon and eel. The Dutch shrimp and the Zeeland
mussel and oyster are the most popular varieties of shellfish eaten.

Soup ^Top^
The last thing that should not be left unmentioned is pea soup (snert). Pea soup and other
heavier soups date back to the Middle Ages when both food and fuel were hard to come
by and most people were poor. Of all the Dutch soups pea soup is by far the most well

known. It is a winter specialty, served throughout the season as a full,
and fulfilling, meal in itself. Other Dutch soups are vegetable soup,
brown bean soup, chicken consommé and chicken soup made with flour
and cream which is called queen’s soup (koninginnesoep).

New trends ^Top^ The above mentioned are some typical Dutch meals. They are still popular in the Netherlands, but as every national cuisine the Dutch cuisine has changed throughout the years and is still changing. An important trend is that people want comfort; they want to cook fast and easy. Many of the above mentioned products have been transformed to fulfill this need. Potatoes are for example sold without peelings and in small pieces. Vegetables are sold ‘ready to cook’; cleaned and cut. There is also a great variety in canned, potted and frozen vegetables (Counihan & Van Esterik, 1997). Another example are packages to prepare your stamppot more easily and the great variety of ready made meals (also stamppot). Another important trend is that foreign influences on the Dutch cuisine are increasing. In the last fifty years Dutch society had become multi-cultural, and as a result the Dutch culinary landscape has been enriched by countless foreign influences. Gastronomic treats from countries like Indonesia, China, Turkey, Surinam, Italy and Morocco can be enjoyed in eateries all over the country. But also in the supermarket foreign influences are increasingly visible. You can eat Asian style with Conimex, Mexican style with Casa Fiesta and recipes from all over the world with Knorr Wereldgerechten (world meals). ^Top^

Faculteit Ruimtelijke Wetenschappen: Rixt Blijkers, Anita Kastelijn, Alies Y. Zijlstra