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Treasures from the basement

Treasures from the basement 

Basement in black and whiteRare finds from the underground that highlight some of the gems stored in the Central City Library's basement.

The basement’s shelves hold thousands of time-honoured titles and quirky old volumes of enduring value to researchers, students, lovers of old books and all incurably curious readers.

From time to time, a member of our intrepid Reader Services team ventures down into the bowels of the library to find new treasures to amuse and delight. This month:  


The art of Dutch cooking by C Countess van Limburg Stirum

The art of Dutch cooking. What caught my eye about this little book was its bright cover, with a simple watercolour painting of Amsterdam - the Dutch flags with red, white and blue stripes, and people who appear to be eating whole fish at a roadside stall (more on that later). Then I noticed the author: C Countess van Limburg Stirum - hardly a name to miss. 

Opening the book, we find that not only did the Countess write the book, but she also painted the picture for the cover and did all the drawings throughout the book.

The art of Dutch cooking was written in 1961 and has been reprinted due to its popularity. It is a simple book, but is fascinating to pick up and browse though. It gives a broad outline of traditional Dutch meals and eating habits, and provides over 200 recipes. The recipes use common ingredients and are relatively simple, although some are rather unusual, such as eel soup, kidney soup, fried young cockerels, roast hare and bread omelette.

The Dutch love their herring and the Countess tells us that the start of the herring season in the Netherlands - around the start of June - is a big event. Fresh herrings are sought after at street stalls, where they are eaten whole.

In addition to explaining the typical meals of a Dutch family and describing some of the delicacies, The art of Dutch cooking features sections on different items such as soups, sauces, vegetables, desserts, fish, meat, and even a section devoted to potatoes which apparently are a national dish and may constitute a meal on their own. Along the way the Countess inserts facts about traditional Dutch life, and of course her own drawings to accompany the section.

Finally there is a section describing Dutch beers and spirits. The Dutch pride themselves on their beers and have a traditional Dutch gin “genever” which, we are told, is not like the English gin; it should be drunk straight, and never mixed in cocktails.

This book provides a great insight into traditional Dutch life and furthermore offers the reader a wide selection of simple, nutritious recipes that are well described. Even though I don’t personally think I’ll cook any of them, I really enjoyed looking through them. 

- Ana, Readers Services

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