Last week, colleagues Erik Bakker and Anima Ruissen from the LEI in the Hague gave a guest lecture in the Food Culture Course on ethnic entrepreneurship. Food culture is often a resource at the disposal of immigrants on which they can build food entrepreneurship. There are often low barriers of entrance towards starting an ethnic restaurant where ‘authentic’ foreign dishes can be sold.

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The potato eaters

nationaalarchief.nlThe famous painting of van Gogh. Never knew it had to be taken so literal as painted. Yes, we love our crisps, chips, fries, mash and “stamppot” as part of our voluntary preferences. But a 150 years ago the potato was eaten out of necessity. The 19th century was not exactly a century of abundance in food for the great majority of the Dutch (and European) population. Indeed, potatoes and nothing but potatoes was the ‘cuisine’ three times a day, in very poor households with vinegar or mustard, and at the slightly better off with lard.

Different food historians have pointed to the fact that the average man in the middle ages had more access to meat than his 19th century fellow. It shows again that there is no such thing as linear progression to civilisation and welfare. Growing cities, crop failures, animal diseases, rising prices of wheat, in short a century of continuously repeating food crisis. Sounds familiar? Nowadays it is the poor in other parts of the world who pay the price.