This text was published previously in Dutch, the mag.
You would think we had invented it ourselves, this vegetable, with as much as we like it. Ask any Dutch person what a typical Dutch meal consists of, and they’re bound to mention the potato. Whether they’re boiled, fried, mashed, it seems to matter not. We just love our taters! But if you think these nutritious aardappels, earth apples, were originally from our clay fields, you’re wrong. Well, partially wrong.
The potato, via a long way from South America, was first introduced in Holland in 1593, when botanist Carolus Clusius brought them to the gardens in Leiden from where they expanded to Groningen and Amsterdam. The potato back then was not grown for its capacity to feed many, but almost as a medical curiosity and was considered to have curative powers. It wasn't until the early 1700's before any serious growing of potatoes took place, and not for human consumption but as animal fodder.
We had to wait until the 1880's before the potato was considered edible. It has never reached that status of super-food or fancy fare, but managed to provide sustenance for many of the less fortunate population. And just like with carrots, the ingenuity of the Dutch and the desire to improve the product, lead to a large variety of new types of potato from our home soil, of which the Bintje is probably the most famous one.
The Dutch kitchen has never been the same since. The warm evening meal more often than not contains potatoes. Evening snacks and Saturday evening take-away consists often of French fries. If we've boiled too many potatoes the day before (and some will do it on purpose), they’re sliced and fried in butter the next day, sometimes tossed with sautéed onions and bacon, and served alongside a green salad. So don't be shy, peel and boil a couple of potatoes extra, slice and fry them in butter the next day, toss them with sauteed onions and bits of bacon and you're set for the evening!