Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bientensla -- Dutch Beet Salad

Two "flinke" beets
Two "flinke" beets  --  thus begins the recipe in Grandma Vanden Bergh's 1920's Dutch cookbook for Beet Salad  -- Bientensla. The adjective can be translated here as "extra large," or "of substantial size."

The rest of the recipe calls for:

3 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons salad oil
1 teaspoon sugar
chopped onion or leek
salt and pepper to taste

I used beets that I purchased at a local farmers' market. The preparation is described as follows:

- Wash the beets thoroughly.
- Cook them in ample water, with salt for about three hours [!]
- Remove the skin; let them cool, and cut in slices or cubes.
- Mix with the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, and if desired, the chopped onion or leek.
- Serve the salad with cold meat or cold cooked fish.

Beet Salad - 1922 Recipe

This is the simplest of the recipes for beet salad in my three Dutch cookbooks. I found that the huge beets cooked for a lengthy time (I only boiled them for half the time indicated in the recipe) did not have much flavor on their own, and a larger number of smaller beets may have produced a tastier dish.

Mom's 1961 cookbook included a slightly different recipe for beet salad, which called for six beets, six boiled potatoes, four hard-cooked eggs, two apples, and three large sour pickles. The dressing was either mayonnaise or oil and vinegar, "if [the mayonnaise] is considered to be too nourishing."

This version was also suggested to be served alongside cold meat.

In good frugal Dutch fashion, I used the leftovers from the first recipe to try this one out as well, although I omitted the apples and pickles. Of course, the potatoes and egg turned a pleasing shade of pink when they came into contact with the beet juice.

Beet Salad  -  1961 Recipe

My modern Dutch cookbook adds even more ingredients to the mix  --  300 grams of corned beef. In this version, the beets and apples are grated, and the mixture is served on a bed of lettuce leaves, with a slice of white bread to round out the meal.

I think I like the oldest recipe best, and would prefer to have the meat and potatoes separately. Whichever way you prefer your bietensla, eet smakelijk  --  enjoy your meal!

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Language note:  My Essential Dutch Dictionary translates the Dutch word flink(e) as "tough, capable, considerable."

Mom's 1967 Cassell's Dutch-English Dictionary (first copyrighted in 1923, a year after Grandma's cookbook was published) gives a range of meanings for different contexts. Here are a few:

For objects:
     good (walk, number, size)
     considerable (sum)
     substantial (progress)
     thorough (overhaul)

For people:
     sturdy, stout, lusty, robust, strapping, stalwart, hardy, energetic

I love this versatile Dutch word flink(e) --  so useful for describing people or things!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Three Generations of Dutch Cookbooks

Another Dutch cookbook has turned up in the family archives! It belonged to my mother, and is entitled "The Art of Dutch Cooking, or How the Dutch Treat." It was published in 1961, forty years after my grandmother's old Dutch cookbook.

The book bears an inscription by my sister: "To Mom - in the year of her European travels, 1971." Indeed, that was the year that Mom and two of her sisters traveled to France and the Netherlands, where they were able to meet up with a number of aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was quite a thrill for my mother to see the very neighborhood where her own mother grew up.

I have added the book to my collection alongside Grandma's 1920's "Eenvoudige Berekende Recepten" and my modern "Deliciously Dutch," by Marijke Sterk, which I purchased in the Netherlands three years ago.

"The Art of Dutch Cooking" was written by Cornelia, Countess van Limburg Stirum. A black-and-white photograph on the endflap shows her in profile  --  a woman of a certain age, with a slight Mona Lisa-like smile, demurely glancing downward, with wavy hair and a stylishly-tied scarf (for 1960) around her neck.

Information about the author indicates that the Countess "learned to cook entirely on her own, when she was stranded on a houseboat during the war [World War II] with her three young sons. A widow, she enjoys surprising her guests with new recipes, and has published three highly successful cookbooks in Dutch."

The volume is illustrated with drawings done by the Countess herself, including a charming watercolor on the cover, which shows a typical Dutch scene of canal houses and people enjoying a treat of fresh herring.

I am curious to learn more about this mysterious Countess, and to try out some of her recipes and compare them with the older and newer ones. Did the Countess possibly have a copy of "Eenvoudige Berekende Recepten" with her on that houseboat? What perennial recipes have come down since earlier times, and how may they have been adapted to meet more modern tastes? Another phase of my research is about to begin!