In 2005, I started a thread about Dutch food on eGullet, one of the best food websites and forums around. My first post on the thread was my mothers recipe for Dutch boterkoek (butter pastry). It was very well received, which inspired me to keep the thread going for more than 2 years now, cooking and photographing Dutch classics like beef braised in butter, Dutch pancakes, stamppot, lots of cookies, pastries and cakes, musselsoup, split peasoup and many, many more. Click here for the Dutch Cooking Recipe Index!
The project has given me a whole new perspective on Dutch food. I grew up on daily dinners of meat, potatoes and vegetables, and could not wait to explore the exotic cuisines of other countries when I left home and had to cook for myself. At that point, even spaghetti with tomatosauce was pretty exotic to me, so this voyage of discovery has been really exciting, and made me into the cook I am today: wrapping up some Vietnamese ricepaperrolls one day, some Mexican tortillas the next.
But the enthusiastic responses to the Dutch recipes gave me a new appreciation for the foods of my childhood and the traditional dishes of my country. When properly made, with high quality ingredients, these dishes can be not only good, comforting and soothing, but they can be superb. Sometimes it's all too easy to spice things up and make your food complicated and fussy. Dedication to just keeping it simple, and doing the simple things the right way: that's what I learned while researching these recipes.
Of course, with the growing interest in local, seasonal and organic foods, the timing for this is just right. Slow Food has 13 Dutch products in its Ark of Taste, and more and more chefs are using oldfashioned recipes and Dutch produce. It's wonderful that we can have real Italian Parmigiano cheese when we want it, but why not have some aged artisan Gouda sometimes instead? And why not, on occasion, have your own homemade versions of classics you only know from bakeries and restaurants?