The History of Dutch Food

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In the 14th century the plague epidemic shrank the population of Europe by nearly half. With fewer people even poor had chance to eat meat and more rye or wheat. Bread entered the diets of the poor as well. There was also more interest in fish. Cheese and eggs was already a staple. However porridge of peas and root vegetables remained the basic food.

Between 1500 and 1700 new products came from the newly discovered America e.g. corn (maize), beans and potatoes. The population began to grow again, so less meat was available per person. Looking at Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Peasant wedding we assume peasants could get mostly porridge, even in such occasion. All of the Low Countries became possessions of the Hapsburg dynasty under Charles V in the 16th century, since then Spanish culinary influenced the Low Countries’ kitchen. Dutch Republic was founded in 1581, because the Netherlands gained independence from Spain as a result of the Eighty Years War. Dutch ships founded colonies in New Amsterdam (now New York), South Africa and the West Indies, and took colonies such as Indonesia or Ceylon. Netherlands ruled the spice trade from the 17th century, so spices were introduced to Dutch culinary those years.  

Between 1700 and 1900 the potato acquired its place over bread and porridge as the main food item of the average people. (Look at Vincent van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters.) These centuries fork began to use by poor as well, since having hot potatoes by hands was too difficult.

Vegetables and fruits are considered as basic food-stuff since the introduction of modern farm machinery and the use of chemical fertilizers. From the end of 19th century the holy trinity of meat, vegetables and potato were considered. Rijsttafel (rice table) was created by Dutch colonials of Indonesia and brought back to Netherlands after Indonesia gained its independence in 1945. Rijsttafel consist rice and many different side dishes such as sambal, satay, egg rolls, fish, banana fritters or pickles. Dishes were collected from many of the regions of Indonesia and Rijsttafel is popular in Indonesia as well. The classic style Rijsttafel ceremony involved the serving of up to 40 different dishes.

After the 1960s, people became concerned with table manners, china and table linens became important. The Netherlands opened its doors; immigration was actively encouraged, many people moved in from Spain, Turkey and Morocco, later Suriname and Netherlands Antilles.Rijsttafel, lumpias, pizza, pasta, hamburgers and chips in a cone all became completely accepted. Nowadays the number of one- and two-person households is increasing, so convenience food is more popular than before.

The Netherlands wish to put itself on the culinary map, so Dutch restaurants cook at an extremely high level, introducing the traditional Dutch kitchen to the world.


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