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Early spices in Amsterdam

Shared Taste Events
25-29 Sept 2017: Summer School: Asian Food: History, Anthropology, Sociology, hosted by IIAS, LeidenAsiaCentre and Shared Taste

11 April 2017: Symposium: Global Jars, with Anna Grasskamp. Venue: Leiden University

28 Nov 2016: Symposium: Global Food History, joint collaboration of Leiden and Warwick. Venue: Leiden University

29 Nov 2016: Symposium: Chinese export paintings: studies and interpretations. At Volkenkunde Leiden, with support of Hulsewe-Wazniewski Foundation

29 Aug- 4 Sept 2016: IEHCA summer university in Tours, France, participating in the 2016 Summer University on Food and Drink Studies

22 April 2016: Lecture Françoise Sabban "The disputed issue of the origin of noodles", Sieboldhuis Leiden

9 November 2015: Asia in Amsterdam Symposium, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

1 May 2015: Dr. Ines Prodöhl (German Historical Institute, Washington DC), ''High diplomacy and a humble bean', University of Leiden

March 2015: 'ideas lunch', to share and exchange ideas on Asia foodways and food culture, Leiden

13 Feb 2015: ''De vroege wereldreizen van een theekopje''. [In Dutch] At Princessehof Leeuwarden, accompanying the exhibition 'Time for Tea'

12 Dec 2014: Inaugural lecture of 'Kikkoman Chair' professor Anne Gerritsen, Academiegebouw, Leiden University, 16:00 hrs

19 Sep 2014: Launch of website 'Shared Taste' and announcement of 'Shared Taste Lecture Series'. Venue: cafe 'Grote Beer', Rembrandtstraat, Leiden, 17:00 - 18:30 hrs.

At the Asia in Amsterdam symposium which was held at the start of the exhibition Asia in Amsterdam” – which has moved from Amsterdam and will be on view in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA (USA) from February 27, 2016- , the Shared Taste project delivered a paper presented by prof. Anne Gerritsen on early culinary exchange, entitled “Candied ginger and China root: Asian ingredients in the 17th century Dutch kitchen“.

To determine whether the arrival of Asian spices and other ‘exotic’ ingredients and condiments on VOC ships in the early 17th century indeed influenced foodways in the Netherlands, as is the general assumption, we decided to look for these (supposedly) unfamiliar ingredients in 16th and 17th century Dutch cookbooks, and track the changes over time.

We used four printed works: Een Notabel Boecxken van Cockeryen (Brussels, ca. 1514) and Eenen seer schoonen ende excellenten Coc-boeck by Carolus Battus (Dordrecht, 1593) from the 16th century, and two late 17th century editions of the influential De verstandige Kock of Sorghvuldige Huys-houdster (Amsterdam, 1677 and 1679).

All recipes from these cookbooks, including recipes for the preparation of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, pies, stews, soups and drinks were added to a database and their spices and flavourings counted. After counting and analysing the results, several patterns emerged, which also show in the tagclouds from the digitized texts of the cookbooks, as pictured above.

The outcome may, or may not suprise you: we found no increase of the use of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves and similar spices in the recipes, but rather a sharp increase of the use of butter and sugar. Of course this outcome is not new, since specialists on Medieval cookery, like J.M. de Winter, have already pointed this out in their works, but to a general audience these conclusions might be new.

More on these findings will be in future publications, and return in future talks; for example coming March, when Anne Gerritsen will be presenting at the Seminar in Cultural History at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City.

Further reading and notes:
Jansen-Sieben, R., & Winter, J.M. van. (1989). De keuken van de late middeleeuwen : Een kookboek uit de Lage Landen. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker.
Willebrands, Marleen. Kookhistorie.nl (2002-…)


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Why this project?
Why 'Shared Taste'? There is so much to know on Asia, Europe and the role of food between us! We would like to start exploring texts, tastes and textures on this tentalizing subject, not only in the present day cultures, but also in the history of food, foodways and commodities.

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