BrooklynBridgeBreukelen breakfast at Nyenrode University


Russell Shorto at the American breakfast for BrooklynBridgeBreukelen.From our correspondent in the Netherlands, Jaap Bosman.

BrooklynBridgeBreukelen is an organization aimed at re-establishing the connection between Brooklyn, New York and Breukelen, the Dutch city that gave it its name. The connection between the two towns was the theme of various festivities in 2009, and last week an American breakfast in Breukelen was held in honor of the end of the BrooklynBridgeBreukelen year. Russell Shorto was the main speaker in the Koetshuis of Nyenrode University.

The acting mayor of Breukelen, Ger Mik, said in his introduction that a new foundation will keep the connections between Breukelen and Brooklyn alive even after the BrooklynBridgeBreukelen year.

Did the Dutch invent the American way of life?

Russell Shorto is the author of "New Amsterdam, Island at the Center of the World" and "Descartes' Bones. A Skeletal History of the Conflict between Faith and Reason" (both books are available in Dutch). Mr Shorto explained the large Dutch influence on the American way of life.

Mr Shorto: "the Netherlands were a very special country. In 1600 in London you would only find English people, in Paris French people, but in the towns of the Netherlands you could find all kinds of people". The inhabitants of these multicultural towns learned to accept and tolerate each other and when the Dutch started a small trading post in the New World in this way of life was exported to Nieuw Amsterdam. In 1640 the West Indische Compagnie no longer monopolized the trade in Nieuw Nederland and free trade flowered in Nieuw Amsterdam, as it did in Holland. From that time Nieuw Amsterdam grew as a trade center.

Most new immigrants arrived in New York and there they learned this 'Dutch way of life' and considered it to be the real American way of living. They spread this way of living throughout the US. That is why the Dutch had so much influence on the American way of life.

Mr. Shorto said that the ties between the USA and the Netherlands are still surprisingly strong: "Germany is at the other side of the border, Germany is close by, but between the USA and the Netherlands is a big Atlantic ocean and yet I feel that the Dutch are more close to the US than to Germany".

Around 50 guests attended the event in the main room of the Koetshuis where scrambled eggs, pancakes, fruit salad, and muffins made for an American breakfast. The Koetshuis is one of the buildings of the castle that houses Nyenrode Business University, built in 1275 by Gerard Splinter van Ruwiel. Breukelen is a village of nearly 10,000 inhabitants near the river Vecht, between Utrecht and Amsterdam.

Breukelen is not the only Dutch city that gave its name to an American place. The names Harlem, New Utrecht and New Amersfoort all originate in the Netherlands and are now parts of New York City.

Holland Society in Amsterdam


Photograph of Donald Westerveld by Geert Snoeijer.From our correspondent in the Netherlands, Jaap Bosman.

In honor of this year's Henry Hudson 400 celebration a series of portraits of the Trustees of the Holland Society of New York will be on display at Amsterdam City Hall. The exposition by Dutch photographer Geert Snoeijer will open on December 14, 2009.

The Holland Society of New York was founded in 1885 and typical last names of its members are Van Pelt, Ten Eyck, Beeckman, Westervelt, Bogarde and VanDerbeek. The goal of the organization is "to perpetuate the memory and foster and promote the principles of the Dutch ancestors of its members". Portraits at the exhibition include those of Walton VanWinkle, Samuel van Allen and Dr. Andrew Hendricks.

Opening on December 14

After the official welcome by Carolien Gehrels, alderman for Arts and Culture in Amsterdam, Martine Gosselink, head of the History Department of the Rijksmuseum will provide an historical outline. There will be a special musical performance by Renske Taminiau.

Geert Snoeijer was born in IJsselmuiden in 1968. He was a lawyer in Brussels and in Amsterdam after which he studied at the Amsterdam Centre for Photography. The Amsterdam City Hall is near the Waterlooplein and next to the Stopera or The Amsterdam Music Theater.

Dutch in will attend the opening; look forward to our exclusive interview with the artist!

The Holland Society of New York, exhibition by Geert Snoeijer
December 14, 2009 through January 11, 2010 in Amsterdam City Hall/Stopera
January 11, 2010 through end of February, World Trade Center Amsterdam

Saint Nicholas visits Brooklyn, NY


On Sunday afternoon Saint Nicholas visited the Lefferts Historic House in Brooklyn, NY. Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas in Dutch, is a traditional winter holiday figure in the Netherlands. The Lefferts House which we visited earlier is a Dutch-American house and his visit was part of the display "Winter on a Flatbush Farm".

St. Nick made his entrance riding on a brown horse followed by a crowd of excited children, a little later then the scheduled 3.00 pm.

There were at least 3 Dutch families with small children attending. A mother said she was disappointed with this rendition of Saint Nick as the costume was not very elaborate. "And 15 minutes ago I saw them carrying his costume through the crowd, so everybody could see it!". However, Dutch and American children alike were duly impressed by Sinterklaas. Kids received chocolate gold coins and mandarins.

The tradition of a St. Nicholas visiting the Lefferts House goes back at least 20 years. "And we always get a couple of expat-families who visit", said Mr. Billy Holliday, the Director of the Lefferts Historic House. The traditional Saint Nicholas date is December 6th or the evening of the 5th, and most Sinterklaas events in the US and the Netherlands are held next weekend. Mr. Holliday explained that in the past the House was closed in December and though that's no longer the case, the event is still held the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Saint Nicholas stayed for about an hour. Children had the opportunity to pet his horse and feed it carrots. There were also demonstration of how to make candles and how to make sauerkraut. Inside a lady was spinning flax, and to the delight of this correspondent outside fresh "oliekoecks" or "oliebollen" were served.

Dutch service and dinner at the Old First Reformed Church


The Old First Reformed Church of Brooklyn organized a Dutch service and dinner on Sunday November 15. The event was part of the 5 Dutch Days in New York City. The church, affectionately called "Old First", dates back to 1654 when what is now New York was still New Amsterdam. Until 1824 services were held in Dutch.

Pastor Meeter welcomed us before the service and gave a tour of the historical building. "Heel goed" and "uitstekend" were the first Dutch words from the New Jersey born pastor, who speaks Dutch well and has a slight Frisian-Gronings accent. He explained that he learned Dutch from his grandparents and that he studied a few months in Groningen, the Netherlands. His PhD dissertation studied the English translations of Dutch liturgy.

The stained-glass windows of the Old First building carry the names of influential New York families of Dutch descent such as Suydam, Cortelyou and Schenk. The organ is a 1891 Roosevelt organ, made by cousins of 'Teddy'.

Geliefde gemeente, dames en heren, mensen en kinderen

Paster Meeter started his sermon with a greeting in Dutch: "Geliefde gemeente, dames en heren, mensen en kinderen."

The service incorporated many Dutch elements. The 15 children in the choir were dressed in old Dutch costumes and sang three Psalms in Dutch -- quite impressive. During the service Pastor Meeter talked about the history of the church: throughout its existence the congregation has had five buildings at three different locations. At its peak Old First had 1,000 members. In 1792 the church added an English language service and until 1824 the church used the Statenvertaling, the first official Dutch translation of the Bible.

During the sermon the pastor asked: "Why does our church participate in 5 Dutch Days? For many of the same reasons that school or a museum or a gallery or consulate would do this: knowledge, relationships, fun... but the driving motivation is love, The Love of God."

Avondmaal bekers

The church owns two antique communion cups (avondmaal bekers), crafted in 1684. Pastor Meeter showed us one of them; the other is on display in a museum in New York. The service was attended by around 130 people.

Dutch without potatoes

Dinner was served after the sermon. "Dinner" is used in its original meaning: the first meal of the day, eaten about noon. A team of many volunteers worked for two days to prepare the meal.

Ken Nieuwenhuis, a third generation Dutch-American, developed the menu and managed the kitchen. His grandfather immigrated from Noord-Holland to set up an American branch of a tulip export company in Wyckoff, NJ.

Ken knows Dutch food well: "This is what I grew up with. When I was first thinking of the menu I thought it would be fairly easy: just boil a large amount of potatoes and make a Dutch stamppot or two. But then I realized: no potatoes! The potato was not known to the Dutch colonists in New Netherland at the time. We tried to cook the food as it was done in New Netherland and with ingredients available in the 1600's. We used Peter Rose's historic cookbook 'The Sensible Cook' for guidance."

"The dishes had a lot of Dutch cultural influences, but also incorporated what we knew the colonists appropriated from the native Americans, which is why there was a corn meal based bread pudding on the table, and pancakes with pumpkin mash. I also tried to stick with fall vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, beets, onions, celeriac and squash (another New World staple), and with foods that the colonists would also likely have preserved, such as dried peas and smoked metworst. Interestingly, spices such as nutmeg and pepper were available in the 1600's, due to the Dutch spice trading".

Ken: "My favorite dish? The rabbit."

The meal was served and eaten with large wooden spoons. Dishes included:

  • Peasoup with carrots and ham
  • Metworst with cabbage
  • Stewed rabbit
  • Rodekool (red cabbage)
  • The desserts included a boter letter, Dutch apple pie and home-made speculaas

The highlights of the dinner for a number of first generation Dutch-Americans we spoke with were the stewed rabbit and the sauerkraut with authentic metworst. Good metworst is hard to find in the United States and this was the real thing. Metworst is more flavorful than Polish kielbasa and coarser consistency. Ken Nieuwenhuis shared with us the secret of the sausage: it's from the Market Basket, a specialty store in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.

Over a 100 guests attended the dinner, which was a great success thanks to hard work by the staff and many friendly volunteers.

Old First Reformed Church of Brooklyn

Thanksgiving, the Dutch way


In early autumn of 1621, the 53 surviving Pilgrims of the Mayflower celebrated their successful harvest and that moment is remembered as the First Thanksgiving in Plymouth.

This Thanksgiving was modeled after celebrations that were commonplace in contemporary Europe. One of the influences on that First Thanksgiving, according to professor J.W. Schulte Nordholt, were the celebrations for Leiden's Ontzet that some of the Pilgrims had seen during their stay in Leiden, the Netherlands.

There are four official Thanksgiving events in the Netherlands tomorrow:

The well-known painting the The First Thanksgiving by Jenny Brownscombe is on display in the Lakenhal Museum in Leiden, the first time that this painting is on display outside the United States. It is loan from the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA through January 4, 2010.

Dutch documents and Bibles in the Lefferts Historic House


Last weekend the Lefferts Historic House organized an exhibition of its Dutch documents and Bibles. This display was part of the 5 Dutch Days, a city-wide event in New York City.

The House was built circa 1783 and is located within Brooklyn's Prospect Park. It is the former home of Continental Army Lieutenant Pieter Lefferts and his wife Femmetie.

It houses a children's museum on the first floor. For the 5 Dutch Days a guided tour of the rooms upstairs was available every 30 minutes which introduced the history of the house and its inhabitants.

Eight historic documents, most of them in Dutch, were on display. One of the most interesting exhibits is the land grant with the signature and seal of Petrus Stuyvesant, Director General of New Netherland, dating from 1661. Written in Dutch, this document establishes the Lefferts family's property in New Netherland.

On display was a slave bill of sale which described the purchase of a young woman named Jenny by Pieter Lefferts from her former owner Hendricks van Buren. The bill was discovered in one of the family Bibles of the Lefferts family.

Also on view was a quilt show, "Sewing Threads of New York: The 400 Year Anniversary of Henry Hudson’s Voyage". For the kids there were old-fashioned games such as walking on stilts and hooping. Dutch snacks were provided at the end of the tour: Dutch cheeses and speculaas cookies.

Lefferts Historic House
Located in Prospect Park, Brooklyn
(Inside the Park’s Willink entrance, at the intersection of Flatbush and Ocean Ave. and Empire Blvd.)

Dutch-Scandinavian relations in Brooklyn, NY


Pascal Theunissen.Yesterday was the start of 5 Dutch Days, a series of events around Dutch-American Heritage Day. In the Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY the Scandinavian East Coast Museum presented two speakers on Dutch New York and Scandinavians in Dutch New York.

The Scandinavian Museum has the goal to establish a permanent museum recognize the contributions and stories of immigrants from Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden to the United States.

The first speaker, Pascal Theunissen, is a journalist and Dutch national. When he moved to New York he was inspired by Russell Shorto's book about New Netherland to start looking for traces of Dutch history in New York. His book, Van Jan Kees tot Yankees, was published earlier this year. While he didn't immediately realize that 2009 would be the year to celebrate 400 years of Dutch-American relationships, it obviously fits in nicely in this year's theme and it the book received positive reviews in the Netherlands. His book is currently not on sale in the United States; it is available in Dutch in bookstores in the Netherlands and on-line. (Disclosure: we received a free copy of the book to review).

Mr. Theunissen provided a lively introduction to the history of New Netherland, and the role of the Dutch in New York's early history. Keeping in line with the evening's theme of Dutch-Scandinavian relations he described how Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant moved an army to New Sweden in 1655 and captured the Swedish colony. Mr. Stuyvesant clearly did not come to Manhattan to make any friends.

Dutch millstones in the pavement
Mr. Theunissen gave a number of examples from his book of Dutch places in New York, such as the Voorlezer's House, the first school in the United States, and the Wyckoff House in Brooklyn. He also mentioned 17th century millstones in the pavement in Queens, Sinterklaas' influence on Santa Claus and the game 'double Dutch'. "New Amsterdam is long gone but there are signs all around you". The most remarkable is the Brooklyn's slogan: Eendraght Maekt Maght -- strengh in unity, in old Dutch.

Bergen Street and beyond
The second speaker, Victoria Hofmo, is the driving force behind the Scandinavian East Coast Museum and President of the museum. Ms. Hofmo introduced the history of Scandinavians in the 17th century. Against a background of internal conflict in Scandinavia, war, unfavorable inheritance laws and a massive loss of population due to the black plague many people from Norway moved to Amsterdam, and later to the New World. Scandinavians around New York often blended in to the Dutch culture and even used the Dutch language. A nice example of a Dutch-Scandinavian relation is the story behind the Bergen Street and Bergen Place -- named after a Norwegian-Dutch/French couple.

Only a few people in the audience were Dutch; most of the people attended had a Scandinavian background. Ms. Hofmo explained that the long common history between the Dutch and the Scandinavians encouraged the Scandinavian Museum to start participating in 5 Dutch Days a few years ago.

After the official program there were drinks and Dutch and Scandinavian cheeses as well as herring, a treat in both Scandinavia and the Netherlands. A highlight for your correspondent was the plate with marzipan and Swedish cookies that were very similar to speculaas.

Scandinavian East Coast Museum

Van Jan Kees tot Yankees, Pascal Theunissen
Mr. Theunissen will be in the library in Alkmaar, the Netherlands on November 22.

75th Annual Verboort Sausage & Kraut Dinner


This weekend was the 75th edition of the annual Verboort Sausage & Kraut dinner in Verboort, Oregon, about 25 miles west of Portland.

The festival is an annual fund-raiser for the Catholic school. The main event is the beer garden style meal, where for $15 you get all-you-can-eat homemade sausage, sauerkraut (zuurkool) and other dishes such mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, lemon and apple pie. Besides the feast people line up early in the morning for a chance to buy sausage and sauerkraut in bulk. Sales start at 9.00 am but the line forms as early at 3.30 am.

The tradition started in 1934 when 198 lbs of sausage were served to 150 diners. This year about 15 tons of sausage and over 2,000 pounds of homemade kraut -- more than 50 barrels -- were served to thousands of diners. Due to unforeseen circumstances your local correspondent could not attend in person but next year we will sample the sauerkraut and sausage for you.

All the ingredients are produced in Verboort (except the meat for the sausage). The smoked sausage is prepared by tens of volunteers in Verboort and consists of a mix of beef, pork and a secret spice blend. Sauerkraut with sausage is a popular winter dish in the Netherlands and sauerkraut features in many Dutch dishes, for example stamppot zuurkool, boiled potatoes mashed together with raw sauerkraut.

The small farming community of Verboort was established by six Catholic families who traveled from the Netherlands to De Pere, Wisconsin and settled in Oregon in 1875. In the same year, Father William Verboort transferred from the diocese of Milwaukee to the Archdiocese of Oregon City. Upon arrival Father Verboort and the community built an informal school and a church. In 1876, Father Verboort and his parents died of fever and the community was named Verboort that same year.

Verboort Annual Dinner, organized by the Visitation Catholic Church
4285 NW Visitation Rd, Forest Grove, OR

Dutch-American Heritage Day 2009


In 1992 President George Bush Sr. proclaimed November 16 to be Dutch American Heritage Day, a day to celebrate the historic ties and mutual friendship between the Netherlands and the United States. On that day in 1776 the Governor of St. Eustatius ordered a salute to a warship of the United States, making the Netherlands the first foreign power to officially salute the flag of the newly-independent United States.

In 2009 there are many celebrations, big and small, throughout the U.S. and in Holland. We have a complete overview on our site; here are some highlights this year.

The Netherland-America Foundation organizes an elaborate gala in the California Club in Los Angeles, honoring internationally renowned actor, director and painter, Jeroen Krabbé (this event is black tie). The Zwaanendael Museum in Delaware organizes an educational afternoon for young & old: "Discover when and where Delaware’s relationship with the Dutch began, and make an origami windmill or tulip.".

There is a Dutch Day in Winchester, California with live performances and there are "5 Dutch Days" in New York City. One of the events worth looking out for is an Historic Worship Service followed by a "New Netherland Dinner" at the Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, NY. The meal that is served is based on 400 year old recipes and includes metworst with cabbage, a boterletter and oliebollen (reservations are required, as is the case for many of these events).

In the Netherlands there is a celebration at the ESA campus/Space Expo in Noordwijk. The U.S. Consulate in Amsterdam has the text of the proclamation by President Bush Sr.

Dutch-American Heritage Day
November 16, 2009 (not all events are on the 16th)
Events, places and organizations

Van Wickle House: celebrating Sinterklaas and preserving Dutch-American heritage


Interior of the Van Wickle House.The Dutch Van Wickle House in Somerset, New Jersey was built in 1722 by Symen Van Wickle. His father Evert emigrated from the Netherlands to New Amersfoort in the late 1600's and became a successful carpenter. The house, designed with Dutch, Flemish and English influences, is well preserved and it is now maintained by The Meadows Foundation.

Your correspondent attended a Board meeting of the Foundation in the Van Wickle House last week and got a tour of the Van Wickle House.

The Meadows Foundation

The treasurer reported on the results of a recent fundraiser and the general financial state of the The Meadows Foundation. The finances are somewhat troublesome because the State Historic Committee was unable to provide the customary GOS grant in 2009 due to the economic situation. This was one of the reasons a due increase was voted on during the board meeting.

The Meadows Foundation has almost 200 members and organizes frequent events in and around the houses. This includes the Colonial Weekend, which attracted more than 200 visitors, and the upcoming Halloween attraction "Enchanted Forest" for which "body part sellers" and "gravediggers" were being recruited. There is a clear Dutch influence in the events and celebrations that the Foundation organizes. For example during the board meeting the date for the Koninginnedag celebration was set to be May 1, and the Sinterklaas celebration was discussed. Sinterklaas will visit the Van Wickle House in full costume, even with a white horse if the roads aren't icy.

There were about 15 people attending the board meeting. At least three of them had historic ties with the Netherlands. Jan ten Broeke immigrated from Overijssel, the Netherlands over 50 years ago. Ellen Hamilton's mother grew up speaking Dutch in Pella, Iowa and John Mullen discovered through genealogical research that he is a descendant of Pieter Claessen Wyckoff, an emigrant from the Netherlands who arrived in New Netherlands in 1637.

Historic manure

The executive director reported on projects in the various houses. In the Hageman Barn, one of the historic houses that the Foundation maintains, a pole was threatening to fall over during the renovation. Apparently the dirt around it wasn't packed very solid. "That's because it's not dirt, but cow-poop. It's 100 year old manure!".

Each of the houses has a few rooms that are rented out to a 'care-taker', someone who lives in the house and takes care of basic maintenance.

Van Wickle House

The Van Wickle House is constructed from wood and is in good shape for a building nearly 300 years old. The floor in the main room is original and made of dark wooden beams. The front door of the house is typically Dutch with its two panels that can be opened separately. The name in American English for such a horizontally divided door is telling: a Dutch door. From much later date are the Delft Blue ceramics in the kitchen, popular souvenirs from contemporary Holland.

In the kitchen a nice 'tea table' was arranged for the board meeting with tea, hot chocolate and lots of different cookies including speculaas. On the board in the kitchen there were newspaper articles about Sinterklaas celebrations in previous years. In one of the room was a display with historic Dutch costumes from places like Marken, Zuid-Beveland and Walcheren.

The Van Wickle House, Somerset NJ
The house is open to the public during events. Dates can be found on the website of the Meadows Foundation.


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