“Going Dutch”

“Going Dutch” is a term used to describe paying your share of a bill, usually at a restaurant. It is a staple in American dining vocabulary and is seen as generally keeping things equal among friends. Surprisingly, the term “Going Dutch” is rooted in international rivalry. For centuries, the Dutch and English were at war over, well, almost everything: international trade, colonization and in general who had the biggest Navy. The English Royal Navy was a seafaring powerhouse for centuries, but that wasn’t always the case. In the middle of the 17th century, the Dutch Navy was the most powerful Navy in the world. Constant wars with the English and the French weakened the Dutch Navy and their dominance was displaced by the English Royal Navy in the 1700s. As in any war, hatred breeds mocking and name calling – and it was common at this time for the Dutch to refer to the English as being descendants of the devil himself. The English response was to call the Dutch drunkards and needing “Dutch Courage,” or alcohol fueled muster to fight. More widely, “Dutch” in adjective form became synonymous with inferior. Such as, a “Dutch Treat” would mean no treat at all. “Going Dutch” would imply being cheap. Fortunately, most derogatory “Dutch” terminology has faded over time. (Gastro Obscura) However, we still find Dutch curiosities in our country.

For example, the Pennsylvania Dutch are not Dutch at all. Most of them emigrated from the Palatinate in Germany. Misunderstood at the time of their influx, they identified themselves as Deutsch (German), which was misconstrued as “Dutch.” Home cooking is what they’ve become most notable for and some of that cooking is done, ironically, in a Dutch oven. Lodge, an American company making cast iron cookware since 1896, credits Paul Revere with adding legs and a flanged lid to the campfire Dutch oven, but neither Mr. Revere nor the Lodge Company invented the original Dutch oven. The Dutch originally made their cookware out of brass, as it was the preferred metal for cookware, especially in England in the 17th century. Abraham Darby from England and his business partner John Thomas were granted a patent in 1707 for casting iron pots in sand. This was after Darby had spent some time in Holland learning Dutch techniques for metal casting for which they were well known. By Using the “Dutch” process with iron, the Dutch oven was born (Burwood, Stephen 396). This brings us to another Dutch process – that of making cocoa powder. In Dutch process, cocoa beans are first soaked or washed in an alkaline solution made with potassium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate. Once dried, they are finely ground to a powder. In the process of alkalization, the cocoa beans lose some of their acidity, so the powder takes on a milder, less bitter flavor. (Martha Stewart)

The Netherlands, home of the Dutch, is a size comparable to the state of West Virginia, and while they may not have the world’s largest Navy anymore, they certainly have some innovative food growing techniques. While the U.S. is 270 times the land mass of the Netherlands, you might be surprised to know the Netherlands is second only to the U.S. in exporting food as measured by value. Their yields are much greater than other countries thanks, in part, to innovation and precise use of their resources. (National Geographic)

“In a potato field near the Netherlands’ border with Belgium, Dutch farmer Jacob van den Borne is seated in the cabin of an immense harvester before an instrument panel worthy of the Starship Enterprise. From his perch 10 feet above the ground, he’s monitoring two drones – a driverless tractor roaming the fields and a quadcopter in the air – that provide detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth, measuring the progress of every plant down to the individual potato. Jacob’s production numbers testify to the power of this “precision farming,” as it’s known. The global average yield of potatoes per acre is about nine tons. Jacob’s fields reliably produce more than 20. That copious output is made all the more remarkable by the other side of the balance sheet: inputs. Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.” Since 2000, Jacob and many of his fellow farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent. They   havealmost completely eliminated the use of chemical pesticides on plants in greenhouses, and since 2009 Dutch poultry and livestock producers have cut their use of antibiotics by as much as 60 percent.” (National Geographic)

The rallying cry in 2000 was made possible by many hundreds of years of environmental engineering and the creation of polders for farmland. Polders are low lying tracks of reclaimed lowlands or seabeds through the use of dikes, dunes and pumps. Energy from windmills in the 15th century accelerated the draining of lowlands and between the years 1609 and 1612 the Beemster Polder was created. More polders would follow over the next few centuries, but none were as big as the undertaking of the Zuiderzee works, the largest hydraulic engineering project undertaken by the Netherlands in the 20th century. It was so large and impressive of an undertaking that the American Society of Civil Engineers declared these works, together with the Delta Works in the South-West of the Netherlands, among the seven wonders of the Modern World; sharing the spotlight with other wonders like the Panama Canal and the English Channel Tunnel, the longest undersea tunnel in the world.

If you were to get into a helicopter and fly above the Netherlands west of South Holland called “Westland,” one would see why it is aptly called “The Glass City.” The country itself has over 23,000 acres of land in greenhouses; that’s approximately 36 square miles of glass. What’s even more impressive is the Wageningen University and Research (WUR) located just 50 miles from Amsterdam.

“Widely regarded as the world’s top agricultural research institution, WUR is the nodal point of Food Valley, an expansive cluster of agricultural technology start-ups and experimental farms. The name is a deliberate allusion to California’s Silicon Valley, with Wageningen emulating the role of Stanford University in its celebrated merger of academia and entrepreneurship.” (National Geographic)

What impresses me most about WUR is that they have students positioned all across the globe doing experiments and testing their theses on plants. Students are often driven by their country’s food inconsistencies. From poor soil, drought, famine, to plant disease, these students want to solve the agricultural problems of the world and are facing them head on. The Dutch are perhaps also driven by the painful memories of food shortages in their country. In WWI, there were food shortages and riots towards the end of the war. WWII was even more devastating to the Dutch pantry, plunging the country into famine in which 20,000 people died. It was named the “Dutch Hunger Winter,” and it left its mark on the babies born during that time. The women who did give birth during the hunger winter had children that had health problems throughout their lives and their DNA has been studied by epidemiologists. (New York Times)

Name calling is so 18th century, yet it still breathes today among the uniformed. Hopefully, we as a country are pulling away from labeling and minimizing those we are unfamiliar with or do not understand. Dutch is not a bad word, in fact, for such a small country, Dutch contributions to the broader world outside their finite boundaries are greater than the sum of their parts. With the world population increasing, the stress on earth’s resources will only multiply but the Dutch have provided a precise model for doing more with less. The world should pay more attention.

Cathy Schmidt writes from Trappe where she and her husband Chef Brian Schmidt own Garden and Garnish Catering. A food explorer, Cathy loves to garden and cook from scratch.

Resources and Readings

www.atlasobscura.com/articles/where-does-going-dutch-come-from

“This Tiny Country Feeds the World,” NationalGeographic.com

www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2022/netherlands-agriculture-technology/#:~:text=But it also provides vegetables,traditional dirt farming to achieve

“7 Wonders of the Modern World,” atlas.com

Burwood, Stephen, “Abraham Darby” in: Magill, Frank N., ed., The 17th and 18th Centuries: Dictionary of World Biography, vol. 4 (Salem Press, Inc., 1999), pp. 396–398.

www.marthastewart.com/1524744/lowdown-cocoa-powder

“The Famine Ended 70 Years Ago, but Dutch Genes Still Bear Scars,” www.nytimes.com

Dutch Oven Pineapple Upside Down Cake

(gluten free/dairy free option)

1  1/3 cups wheat flour or gluten free all-purpose flour (with Xanthan gum added)

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup of shortening or vegan butter substitute

1 egg

3/4 cup of milk or almond milk

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

 

1/4 cup of butter or vegan butter substitute

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 16 oz can of pineapple rings

1 Jar Maraschino cherries

Heat oven to 350. Put the Dutch oven (10 inch) in the hot oven with the butter in it and let it melt. Once melted, pull from the oven and sprinkle with brown sugar and mix it with the butter. Line with pineapple slices and fill the holes with Maraschino cherries. For the cake, cream sugar and shortening, add the egg. Combine the dry ingredients and add to the creamed sugar mixture, alternating with the milk. Mix until just combined. Pour the cake mixture over top of the brown sugar and pineapples. Place in hot oven and cook for about 40 to 50 minutes. Check often with toothpick. Remove when done and turnout onto a cake plate immediately. Note: The sugar will be burning hot. Cool slightly. Can be served warm.

This Pineapple Upside Down cake recipe lends itself very well to being made with all-purpose gluten free flour, vegan butter and almond milk for those that may have an allergy or intolerance.
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