The history of pickles, intertwined with Jewish Amsterdam and extreme poverty, is almost invisible and yet ubiquitous. Before sour city Two researchers collected the visual effects of a rich acidic culture. “Sadness is still in the ground here, as well as the fun that was before the war.”
“In old pictures of pickles, you always see earthenware buckets with pickles, pickled herring and onions. These were actually toilet buckets: not for your needs, but for washing yourself with water. The peddlers used those buckets because the lids kept out the pungent smell of acid,” he says. Paul van Ravesten: “Now we have five as well.” “They’re in the office.”
Van Raefstein and colleague Monique Mulder stand in front of Stubbe’s herring stall – which has been trading since 1904 – in the Haarlemmersluis. Together, they delved into the history of pickles in Amsterdam over the past few years, which led to this sour cityan impressive and comprehensive book on the history of Amsterdam canning—mainly Jewish—from pickles and onions to herring, liver, sauerkraut, and more.
With pedigrees of the most important families of the liner, general maps with the locations of all the mills and stalls of the liner and, above all, many, many photographs from all kinds of archives inside and out. “The book is crazy visual,” says Van Ravesten. “I found a lot of pictures of pickles and herring hawkers taken at this place.”
The herring stall is a good starting point for a walk through the acidic history of the town: not only is Stubbe one of the 19 herring carts remaining in town, there has been a fish market here for centuries and two hundred meters away stands the Haringpakkerstoren where herring was salted and boiled, it has long been a favorite place to eat pickled herring; Van Ravesten: “So far you see that everyone comes to Staub, Amsterdam and tourists.”
Sour, as in “Amsterdam sour”, you can get it by putting vegetables such as cucumbers, onions and beets, but also liver sausage, or herring for pickled herring and rolls, in vinegar, salt, sugar and spices. or by fermenting them with salt, so that lactic acid bacteria convert the sugars present into acid, as in sauerkraut and kimchi. But other pickling traditions, such as salted herring, also play a role sour city.
“Salted herring is not sour and is not necessarily a Jewish affair, but it belongs to this history: all the stalls sell herring sour. Those who had little money bought a sour bomb and shared the herring. The combination of herring with pickles is usually Amsterdam. They think this is absurd.” in The Hague,” says van Ravesten.
Although preserving, fermenting, drying and salting ingredients to weather the winter should always have been a part of the diet of Amsterdammers, it received a boost from the 17th century. Ashkenazi Jews came to the city from Central and Eastern Europe, bringing with them recipes for vegetables pickled in vinegar. Around 1700, the Jewish community in Amsterdam was the largest in Western Europe, numbering ten thousand. They lived mainly on the islands of Uilenburg, Marken and Rapenburg, which were soon called the Jewish Corner. Banned from guilds and most professions, they began selling produce on the street, including many pickled vegetables.
“That’s what I love about this topic: It’s all about immigration. Amsterdam was built by people, mostly immigrants. We must continue to tell their stories, because there is so little concrete input left,” Mulder says.
Together with Van Ravestein, she ran the communications and design agency Mattmo in Spinhuissteeg for thirty years. She is a strategic director, creative director. Clients include fruit and vegetable processing company Koninklijke Vezet, Kesbeke and Artis cannery. In addition, they have started their own projects, such as Dutch Cuisine, a movement of chefs, farmers, and other professionals to make Dutch cuisine and food culture more sustainable both nationally and internationally and put it on the map.
“Mattmo is basically an identity generator for a city or a brand. We always do research to understand the current identity, which for us is connected to the land you live and work on. Likewise with this book. If you want to understand the identity of the capital, you immediately come to eat and drink “Amsterdam is the city of food. You can see that in the architecture with its warehouses, in the canals through which the food was transported, on the stock exchange and in the port,” Mulder says.
“The idea to explore the acidic history of Amsterdam started with a magazine for the Kesbeek inlay factory—not Jewish, by the way, but Zeelandic,” van Ravesten explains. “For a family history article, I wanted to know where the grandfather of the current owner, Oos, started from. We had a picture of him in the entryway, so I searched the photo archive of this house. Many of the buildings have been demolished or altered over time, so it was quite a mystery, but I “I found the right picture. That was a kick moment for a nerd like me, and so I started to discover more and more. First five inlays, then a little more. Then I found a card with five hundred inlays, and before I knew it I was on a massive hunt.”
Van Ravesten collected family cards, newspaper reports, and photographs from various archives. They were all loose fragments from which a story eventually emerged. It took me three years to get the context right. Take the man with a barrel on his head in the famous photo above: it wasn’t clear where the photo was taken. So I went looking for those two gabled roofs behind it, in the pictures taken near the Jewish markets. It turned out to be on Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat – the building has since been demolished.”
The research method used by Van Ravestein is called visual investigation or visual investigation, and it has taken off in recent years. New York times It has a separate section for it; Research collective Bellingcat has become world famous for this, among other things. Van Ravestein: “The image is not there to illustrate the text, but the image leads you: you investigate the image.”
Meanwhile, the authors arrive at Stationsplein. “Before the war, there were a lot of hawkers here,” says Van Ravesten. “There is nothing left of it, of course. This is a recurring theme: acid is an unseen heritage in the city. The stalls are gone, as are the people who run them. And we are talking about a poor industry: people are generally not photographed. The pictures I found are exceptions. There were many.” of advertisements for beer and chocolate, but I did not find a single poster for pickles. However, there were already wealthy families in this industry, such as Spyers and Luycks, who were also involved in antiques and jewelry. They worked on a large scale and exported to America.”
Adds Mulder: “Worlds apart, but the stories of these two groups sometimes overlap. A rich boy fell in love with such a poor girl, for example. Paul discovered this when he was researching the genealogy of all the families.”
The authors continue through Prins Hendrikkade to Zeedijk, where pickling and brewing shop Thull’s recently opened a second location at No. 71. On sale: jars of sauerkraut and sauerkraut as well as kimchi, red cabbage with seaweed and cauliflower with beetroot and red pepper. “The fact that they are here, near the old center of pickling history in Amsterdam, completes the circle. In the second half of the last century, people lost interest in pickling: the necessity disappeared with the arrival of the tin can and the refrigerator. “It’s sustainable, healthy and delicious. And there’s still so much to discover in pickled and fermented food from around the world: Korean kimchi, Surinamese pickles, Japanese tsukimono, Turkish tushu. Serial Pickler is in Tel Aviv, very nice woman,” Mulder adds. She gives workshops and comes up with new and exciting ideas.”
grief on earth
Van Ravesten and Mulder remain standing in the new market. “This was an important market square for the city and there was a large fish market on the water, which was demolished in 1921. The important Sephardic Allegro family once stood there walking around. The book contains a beautiful photograph of the Beesemers stall, who lived and worked in the Nieuwmarkt and moved in 1942 World War II is an unavoidable theme in the history of acid, and it can be seen in all the family trees of families in the book: a good portion of the people in the acid world of Amsterdam were killed in Nazi camps. “The horrors of war wiped out almost the entire industry,” Mulder says. “If you know the story of this place, and you know the photos and you know the people in it, you get a sense of the history: the sadness is still in the land here, as well as the prosperity and fun that was before the war.” Van Ravesten: “We think it’s also important to pay tribute to Jewish life before the war. You often only read and hear about war dramas, but there was a fantastically rich Jewish culture in Amsterdam before that.”
The road continues to St. Anthony, Louis. Once upon a time there was also a herring and sour stand, now a hot dog stand has taken over the function, but the sour has not gone away: who wants to put sauerkraut, pieces of cucumber, pickled onions and peppers in their sausage sandwich. “This was the gate to the ghetto, behind which lay the Joden Houttuinen, a large slum with many invaders, including Zouaves, de Leeuw and Franchmann. It was the acid center of Amsterdam. We have a report from 1891 from Jan Edouard van Someren Brand, head of the Stedelijk “He thought it was just Cairo. There was a really insane difference between this neighborhood and his,” Van Ravesten asserts.
“It’s hard to imagine extreme poverty,” Mulder says. “People let their children sleep on the windowsill because the rats were on the floor. There were thugs, and there was a boxing gym. But also the Jewish pianist who came to play Rachmaninov here, and the Maurits Allegro who drove his sports car with flowing hair and won over the most beautiful girls. Aren’t they Those ingredients for a feature film or a series like Peaky Blinders? I can already see it all in my mind.”
With this book, the project isn’t over yet for the two: They still want to make an acid road and create an exhibition together. Are screenwriters interested? They can contact you directly.
Monique Mulder and Paul Van Ravesten, sour city. Biography of pickles in AmsterdamAnd the Nijo and Van Detmar39.99 euros
Zur in Amsterdam also came from farther afield than Eastern Europe. Jan Huygen van Linschoten wrote in his book Itinerario, flight ofteschipvaert, near eastern portugal in 1596 for pickled mangoes, peppers and durians with salt and vinegar. Sailors aboard VOC ships took the drug and its recipe back to Europe. In cookbooks and cookbooks from Amsterdam in the 18th century, the word “aziya”, “achyar” or agar appears – not with tropical fruits and vegetables, but with cabbage, celery or black radish.
Also listen to the Amsterdam Metropolis podcast: