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-…)