On y boit une bonne bouteille

In the 1970s I saw a mango for the first time in my life and it must have taken another ten years before I tasted one. Spouse even remembers her first paprika. We have come far.
How far, is described in Primeurs en delicatessen. Hoe Nederland leerde eten (First Fruits and Delicacies. How the Dutch Learned to Eat), by culinary journalist Ronald Hoeben and Roselie Kommers (Nijgh & Van Ditmar 2015). In telling the history of Dikker & Thijs, a famous Amsterdam delicatessen and restaurant, they picture the development of Dutch ‘(haute) cuisine’ in the 20th century. For Dutch readers born before 1970 it is a joy to read about the then upcoming chefs, the clientele, and the food fashions of times not so long past.
If the Dutch needed to learn how to eat, the same held true for learning how and when to drink wine. And though the book title indicates that the focus is on eating, one does get an insight in the way Dutch drinking habits changed as well.
In an advertisement from the 1920s the restaurant claims (in the culinary lingua franca that appealed to the well-to-do): On y mange très bien; On y boit une bonne bouteille. That ‘good bottle of wine’ was not only available in the restaurant, but in the shop too (though I do not know to what extent). Think traditional French (Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Champagne) and the odd bottle of German Rhine wine. An indication is provided by the intriguing list of wines that Henry Thijs offered his guests for his wedding anniversary in 1938. Melon, lobster, celeriac, salmon, sweetbread, chicken, cheese, pudding, and strawberries were washed down by Oppenheimer Goldberg, natur 1934; Champagne Delamotte, sec ou brut 1928 (one could choose?); Château Pontet Pachau 1926; Château Gruaud Larose Sarget 1919; Charmes Chambertin 1923; and a Champagne Lanson père et fils of 1915. Note the vintages: the youngest wine by far is the 4 year old Oppenheimer Goldberg (Rheinhessen), the oldest the Lanson (for which Thijs functioned as their first Dutch importer).
Let’s jump to the 1950s, Amsterdam, my grandparents’ apartment, a birthday. As Dikker & Thijs was not the shop for the upper lower middle class, way too expensive, no Champagne or oysters here. Instead: ‘zoete Spaanse’, a sweet Spanish red, eggnog with whipped cream, raisins in rum, and bowl to accompany diced cheese and crackers with a slice of sausage and a small dollop of mayonnaise. Beer was considered vulgar. Sweet Spanish red was for many their first encounter with wine. Only slowly Dutch customers were exposed to other wines, for example during holidays in France. Portuguese rosés became popular, sherry became fashionable for women, supermarkets sold more and more wine and started to stock not only cheap pinard. The sweet Spanish red remained popular for decades with my grandparents. Change came with the next generation, be it via restaurants, holidays in southern Europe, grocers, or other (outlandish) influences. My mother as a young woman in the late 1950s, having a flirtatious fortnight with a dashing Australian émigré who took her places in her home town she did not know existed, ordered a glass of that same plonk in a pub but was gently corrected. Would she care for a different glass of wine?
As I wrote: we have come far. How far? Lanson, the Champagne brand that boasts their royal clientele, once imported by Henry Thijs for the happy few, is now available at our biggest grocer.

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