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!

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