What is the history of stamppot, and how did it become a traditional Dutch food? And the big question: what on earth is stamppot?
When you think of Dutch food, you probably think of cheese (Gouda and Edam) and the giant pancakes you’ve had in those wonderful pancake restaurants scattered all around Amsterdam and other parts of the Netherlands. I’m curious as to whether you’ve ever asked a Dutch person to name a traditional Dutch food. Well, no need asking really, because the answer they’ll give you is “Stamppot.”
I’m pretty sure you’ve seen a lot of people (mostly Dutch natives) in the Netherlands eating a traditional Dutch dish made from a combination of potatoes mashed with one or several vegetables (and sometimes fruits). These vegetable pairings traditionally include sauerkraut, endive, kale, spinach and turnip greens.
Stamppot Through the Years
The endurance and popularity of the stamppot are truly mind-boggling. The dish is said to be one of the oldest, and yet still one of the most popular Dutch dishes. To really understand how the stamppot became such a popular traditional Dutch food, one must look into the past and understand how it came to be in the first place.
Originating sometime in the 1600s, stamppot first started out as a very popular Dutch winter dish and has been rightly so for hundreds of years. “Winter dish”, because of its warmth and ability to immediately fill you up. It was such a staple food during the harvest months because in this period, potatoes were available in abundance and many hungry farmers could be filled up quickly, and cheaply as well.
What is Stampot exactly?
There are lots of stamppot recipes in circulation, but here are some of the very popular ones in the Netherlands:
- Boerenkoolstamppot (kale stamppot)
- Zuurkoolstamppot (sauerkraut stamppot)
- Hutspot (onion and carrot stamppot)
- Rauwe Andijviestamppot (raw endive stamppot)
- Preistamppot (leek stamppot)
Although the Dutch and their affinity for mashing their food is one that’s quite legendary, I have to admit that no one knows who invented the stamppot or how it came to be. One thing is clear though, the hutspot’s recipe was discovered when the Dutch resistance succeeded in driving away the Spanish from Leiden. It’s quite a legend in its own right and if you don’t mind, I’d very much like to tell you about it.
Legend of The “Free” Hutspot
So as we know, the Dutch did fight a war with Spain called “The Eighty Years’ War.” (Difference Between Holland and The Netherlands). This war was a revolt of the Seventeen Provinces of what are today the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, as well as the French region of Hauts-de-France against King Philip II of Spain. For those of us who don’t know, the word “hutspot” is derived from the Dutch words “hutsen”, meaning “to mix” and “pot” meaning, well, just “pot.”
Anyway, according to the legend, during the Eighty Years’ War, the Spanish under Francisco de Valdez, tried to capture Leiden in 1573, as the inhabitants stubbornly defended their city and withstood a one-year siege. On October 3, 1574, when the resistance finally succeeded in driving the Spanish away and liberating the city, it is reported that the Spanish soldiers fleeing Leiden left cooked bits of an unfamiliar stew of carrots, meat, onions and parsnips, which the starved inhabitants of Leiden ate up really quickly. Not knowing what to call the unfamiliar dish, they named it “Hutspot”, and it has remained a symbol of their victory till this day.
Stamppot and the Leids Ontzet
The anniversary of the liberation of Leiden, known as “Leids Ontzet” in the Netherlands, is still celebrated every 3rd of October in Leiden and by Dutch nationals everywhere. It is a celebration that has to do with the consumption of a lot of hutspot. It’s definitely one you shouldn’t miss, especially if you’re a lover of mashed potatoes.
While the origins of the Dutch Stamppot may not be very clear, one thing everyone can agree on is that it is a much-loved dish in the Netherlands and the hutspot still remains a symbol of Dutch freedom and victory in the siege of Leiden.
So if you’re visiting the Netherlands, try any type of Stamppot and who knows, you might be hooked for life. Let us know what it’s like in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 6 February 2018, and was updated 25 October 2019 for your reading pleasure.
Feature Image: Marcus Meissner/Flickr.