Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dutch butter

My time in England is winding down. I've been on a discovery tour of the British kitchen: fabulous cheeses, great baked goods and plenty of good butter. As always, out of curiosity, I wonder how much of an influence the Dutch kitchen has had on the English one. After all, there is only a small stretch of water between the two monarchies and they've often spent time sailing the seas together.

In the mid-1500's, Dutch and Flemish protestants fled religious persecution and arrived in Norwich, close to the east coast of England. Over time, close to 6,000 "strangers", as the Dutch were called because of their different clothing and customs, settled around the area. But they did not only bring clothing and customs, they also brought their own pots, pans (such as a frying pan) and dishes. In the book The North Sea and Culture (1550-1800), part of a letter from Claus van Werveken from Norwich to his wife says: "Bring a dough trough, for there are none here.....Buy two little wooden dishes to make up half pounds of butter: for all the Netherlanders and Flemings make their own, for here it is all pigs' fats."

Imagine that. We presumably introduced butter to Norwich. We brought frying pans. Can you visualize the possibilities?! Lard is good, but butter is so much better. It warms my heart to think that such small items of comfort made these refugees feel at home in their new country, and that it left a lasting culinary contribution.

The picture is of a Limburg dish called Kruimelvlaai, or better known in the Venlo dialect as "bôttervlaaj", butter pie. On a cold, rainy and dark day like today, it's seems like an appropriate pie to salute these friendly "strangers" with, and thank them for introducing this significant spread.

 

3 comments:

  1. My parents immigrated from Venlo, Netherlands to Canada in the mid-50's. My children who are now 24 and 26 have been able to experience a number of dutch customs, one of which is kruimeevaai every Christmas and at many birthdays. My mother was, of course, the designated baker of the vlaai, and thrilled whenever asked to make it for the gathering. It is a rich delicious favourite. Everyone always 'leaves room' to enjoy this dessert.

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  2. You also forget, as so many have, that the William III, the Dutch Stadhouder and Prince of Orange, succesfully dethroned his uncle/father-in-law and became King of England in 1688 (aka 'The Glorious Revolution'). He reigned until his death in 1703 and his reign was a HUGE influence on English culture and politics, even though the Brits would love to deny this. The influence ranged from the creation of the Bank of England and the Bill of Rights to architecture (the typical Dutch Classical style. Bathrooms with hot water on tap! Sash windows!), gardening, the collecting of porcelain and the bringing indoors of cut flowers in vases. And food and drink, no doubt.
    But even before William III, Dutch culture had a huge influence, if only because the Dutch Republic was so rich and succesful. The richest and most succesful country in the known world at that moment in fact, and people always follow trends of the rich and famous, after all.. lol!

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  3. Welcome back!
    Nothing beats the taste of boter...yammy!!

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