What’s for dinner and who’s cooking?

Change in Taste and Patterns. Food at the 19th century court and court circles in the Hague

Lizet Kruyff 

1813, the young kingdom of the Netherlands is a fact. The court and elite cuisines show a mixture of international and down-to-earth dishes, with a strong tendency towards the French cuisine and lavish receptions during the reign of King Willem II, and a rather sober approach under King Willem III. While Queen Emma created a new ‘modern’ but strict court culture to promote her daughter Queen Wilhelmina. At balls, routs, state dinners and suppers a firm protocol was followed. At these official occasions the guests were seated and offered succulent dishes according to their rank and status. But who reigned in the kitchen? The menubooks of the Dutch Royal House, the administration books, the city archives tell us about the cooks and kitchenmaids of the elite in the Hague, and their cookery books, and the menus of the elite.

The cooks of the new Hagois elite represent the development in the culinary culture of the 19th Century. From strong 18th Century influences via the French modern cuisine to a more ‘Dutch’ menu. As well as the – from the part of the cooks reluctant – transition from Service à la Française to Service à la Russe. They are no longer anonymous staff ‘downstairs’, but people with a voice and even a face. Most of them recruited from the hotels of the elite across Europe, or lured from the kitchens of the nobility; some of them true family retainers, some of them gifted and ambitious professionals. Almost forming a clan.