© Cor Snabel
Most European contemporaries saw the Dutch as a nation of gluttons, who
were not very choosy about the food they ate, as long as it was a lot.
The English traveler John Ray was very annoyed by the constant bolting
of the Dutch, he characterized the Dutchman as ponderous, fat, laconic
and whose heart was only beating faster if he saw profit or food.
Wine and beer were also consumed in considerable amounts, at some inns
glasses without a stem were used. You had to keep the glass in your
hand, so it could be refilled all the time. If you had enough, it had to
be placed upside down on the table and you would be laughed at.
In the 17th century a Frenchman wrote in his travel report: “The
Dutchman keeps his hat on during diner, eats with dirty fingers and
smacks his lips audible. The table manners of the lady of the house are
no different of those of the maid, who sits at the same table”.
Okay, the rest of Europe was eating with their fingers too, but the
Dutch still had their table manners. It was allowed for a lady to lick
her fingers, but only the first two finger bones. For the rest of her
hands and arms she had to use a napkin. The bread, vegetables and the
meat were eaten with the hands.
We still have a Dutch expression, used as an excuse, if we are caught
eating with our fingers: “why else should the Good Lord have given us
The only cutlery they knew was the spoon and knife. The spoon for the
soup and porridge and the knife for cutting the meat. Someone with a
healthy appetite always had his spoon with him, hanging on his belt.
During a short period in the beginning of the 17th century a white
pleated collar was in fashion and people started using forks, in order
to protect it from getting dirty, but by the time the collar was out of
fashion, the fork disappeared.
Even in 1733 Justus van Effen wrote; he did not see anything wrong in
eating from the same plate and drinking from the same glass. If in
company of strangers he could understand it, but “being with good honest
friends, what could be wrong about eating with your fingers, which were
cleaned before dinner as was that fork”.
But by this time the influence of the French Royal Court had already
reached the Republic and all Dutch maids had to put a fork for each
course on the table.