Researching Food: Post Script with Peter G. Rose

Traditions of the Hudson Valley Dutch with Peter G. RoseRecently, I interviewed food historian Peter G. Rose about her book Food, Drink and Celebrations of the Hudson Valley Dutch (Listen to the interview here). The book describes the traditions and celebrations of the Hudson Valley Dutch, some of which were carried over from the Netherlands and some of which were adopted in the new world.

With this Post Script interview we dig a little deeper into the occupation of a food historian and how it differs from other types of historians.

Post Script: Researching Food with Peter G. Rose

MPL: How did you become a food historian?

PGR: Becoming a food historian gradually happened as a natural extension of my work as a food columnist for the NY Gannett newspapers. We live in the Hudson Valley and more and more I became aware of the Valley’s Dutch roots. When I visited Historic Hudson Valley’s offices, the curator asked me to look at a Dutch book they had in their archives and to tell her about it. It was the 1683 edition of The Pleasurable Country Life, a book on gardening, beekeeping, medicines, and also a cookbook. That was in the early 1980’s and it took me a long time to properly research its background and – in the time of typewriters – to transcribe the cookbook part as it was too fragile to photocopy.  By 1989, Syracuse University Press published it  with the title The Sensible Cook: Dutch Foodways in the Old and the New World and that was really the beginning for me.

MPL: What do food historians focus on in their work and how do they differ from other types of historians?

PGR: Food historians as you can imagine focus on food. Some study agriculture, fishing or milling or some specific food, others are more interested in preparation, or specific dishes, others look more at ethnic development, assimilation, and cultural connections. For me it was a no-brainer, since I am Dutch, I wanted to know about the Dutch influence on the American kitchen and that is what I have given my attention to for the last 3 decades. What makes my specialty of Dutch food easier to research is that we have so much visual evidence in the paintings of the Golden Age of The Netherlands and American museums have many holdings of Dutch 17th-century art.

MPL: The term “historical foodways” is often associated food historians. What does it mean?

PGR: Foodways is a collective noun which encompasses not only recipes and preparation, Traditions of the Hudson Valley Dutch with Peter G. Rosebut also social customs of the period.
To illustrate:

From 18th and 19th century hand-written Dutch-American cookbooks belonging to the descendants of the early settlers, we know that they continued to cook in the manner of their forebears. Many of the recipes indicate not only the method of preparation but reveal that Dutch social customs continued here as well, as revealed for example by a recipe for doot koeckjes, which are funeral biscuits. From a Schenectady diary we know that the Dutch custom of serving plate size cookies and spiced wine, as well as offering pipes and tobacco at the time of a funeral, still continued until the mid-18th century. Recipes for kandeel, often anglicized to condale indicate that the custom of serving spiced wine mixed with eggs at the time of birth continued as well. Not only agricultural practices and horticultural introductions are attributable to the Dutch colonial past in America, but also doughnuts, coleslaw, waffles, wafers, pretzels, pancakes and above all cookies, to mention only a few examples. The Dutch touch left a lasting mark on the American kitchen.

MPL: Do you try to recreate the historical recipes that you discover? If so, are the recipes surprisingly good or do some disappoint?

PGR: Yes, I do try the recipes I find they work surprisingly well, providing you have enough knowledge of measures and are a reasonably experienced cook. In the case of 17th and 18th-century recipes, a good knowledge of hearth cooking comes into play as well. In general I would say that the recipes are delicious and some are outstanding!

MPL: What is the most fun aspect of being a food historian?

PGR: The most fun aspect of being a food historian is the constant discovery and the finding of little historical tidbits that help in rounding out the total picture. I hope to go on doing this and to go on giving talks because in the Q&A periods I always learn something new and that makes it exciting and great fun!

FC 67 Traditions of the Hudson Valley Dutch with Peter Rose

This week on Fieldstone Common our featured guest is Peter G. Rose, food historian and author of the book Food, Drink and Celebrations of the Hudson Valley Dutch.


Peter G. Rose was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and was educated there as well as in Switzerland. She came to the United States in the mid-1960s. She has worked as a Traditions of the Hudson Valley Dutch with Peter G. Rosefood writer and contributed a syndicated column on family food and cooking to the New York-based Gannett newspapers for more than twenty years. She has written articles for magazines such as Gourmet and Saveur, as well as for newspapers and magazines in the Netherlands, and locally for Hudson Valley Magazine and The Valley Table.

She started her research on the influence of the Dutch on the American kitchen in the early 1980s and published her first book on the subject,The Sensible Cook: Dutch Foodways in the Old and the New World, at the end of that decade. It was followed by Foods of the Hudson: A Seasonal Sampling of the Region’s Bounty (1993); and Matters of Taste: Food and Drink in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art and Lifewith Dr. Donna R. Barnes (2002). More recently, she published Food, Drink and Celebrations of the Hudson Valley Dutch (2009) and Summer Pleasures, Winter Pleasures: a Hudson Valley Cookbook (2009). She is the 2002 recipient of the Alice P. Kenney Award for her research and writing on Dutch food history.

As a member of the Speakers in the Humanities program of the New York Council for the Humanities, she lectures on historic Dutch food ways all over New York State. She illustrates her talks with paintings of the Dutch Masters and has spoken at many museums with holdings of such Dutch art all around America. She lives with her husband, Don, in the beautiful, historic Hudson Valley of New York.

You can learn more about Peter at her website as well as check out her upcoming appearance schedule.

Book Summary

In 1609, Henry Hudson, under contract with the Dutch East India Company, set out to discover the lucrative Northwest Passage. The Hudson River Valley is what he discovered instead, and along its banks Dutch culture took hold. While the Dutch influence can still be seen in local architecture and customs, it is food and drink that Peter Rose has made her life’s work. From beer to bread and cookies to coleslaw, “Food, Drink and Celebrations of the Hudson Valley Dutch” is a comprehensive look at this important early American influence, complete with recipes to try.

Book InfoTraditions of the Hudson Valley Dutch with Peter G. Rose

Title: Food, Drink and Celebrations of the Hudson Valley Dutch

Publisher: The History Press (2009)

Trade paperback; 157 pages with bibliography, index and some BxW photos and illustrations.

Food, Drink and Celebrations of the Hudson Valley Dutch is available for purchase from and other booksellers.

The Interview

In this interview we talk about the traditions of The Netherlands and how they were brought to New Netherland in America. Our discussion focuses predominantly on the Hudson Valley area of New York. The mainstays of the Dutch diet included bread and beer and a favorite fondness for cookies and pastries. The Hudson Valley Dutch were in close proximity to Native American communities and the two cultures impacted each other’s food traditions.  Many Dutch foods worked their way into mainstream American culture such as doughnuts, waffles and cookies.

Prize Winners

Two copies of Food, Drink and Celebrations of the Hudson Valley Dutch were given out to the Fieldstone Common audience courtesy of The History Press.

The winners are:

  • Geri Neumann of New York
  • Mary Perra of New York

Congratulations to our winners and thanks to The History Press for their generosity in donating the books!

Make sure you qualify to win the giveaway next week by signing up for the Bonus List! Once you sign up your are in the running each week!

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