Today is another coincidence day – the birthdays of two Amsterdam authors of the Dutch Golden Age: Gerbrand Adriaenszoon Bredero (1585) and P. C. Hooft (1581). Not surprisingly, they were friends and collaborated, but there is no record of them ever having a shared birthday party. We will have to make up for the omission.
Bredero was born in Amsterdam in the Dutch Republic, where he lived his whole life. He called himself “G.A. Bredero, Amstelredammer”, and sometimes he is called Breero or Brederode. He was the third child of Marry Gerbrants and Adriaen Cornelisz Bredero, who was a shoemaker and a successful real estate agent. Bredero was born in the Nes, nowadays number 41, and in 1602 he and his family moved to a house on Oudezijds Voorburgwal, now number 244, which his father had bought. Bredero lived in this house for the rest of his life. Both houses are now restaurants in Amsterdam’s famous red light district.
At school Bredero learned French and possibly also some English and Latin. Later he was educated as an artist by the Antwerp painter Francesco Badens, but none of his paintings have survived. In 1611 he became a member of the rederijkerskamer d’Eglantier (“Eglantier rhetoric chamber”), where he was an active member and became friends with Roemer Visscher and P.C.Hooft. Together with Hooft he supported Samuel Coster in the creation of Nederduytsche Academie (First Dutch Academy) which was intended to provide a better environment for the production of plays than the rederijkerskamers. Around this time he wrote the play De Spaanschen Brabander Ierolimo. Between 1611 and 1618, seven of his plays were produced in Amsterdam.
The only public position Bredero achieved was as vaandrig or standard bearer of the civic guard. On 23rd August 1618, at the age of 33, Bredero suddenly died, shortly after he had recovered from pneumonia that he had contracted after falling through ice. He never married.
Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, often abbreviated to P.C. Hooft, was born in Amsterdam as the son of the then mayor, Cornelis Hooft. In 1598, his father sent him to France and Italy in order to get prepared for a career as merchant. However, Pieter was more interested in art. In particular, he was deeply impressed by the Italian renaissance. In 1609, he was appointed bailiff of Muiden and the Gooiland. He founded the Muiderkring, a literary society located at his home, the Muiderslot, the castle of Muiden, in which he got to live due to his appointment as sheriff of Muiden. Among the members were the poets and playwrights Constantijn Huygens, Maria Tesselschade, Bredero and Joost van den Vondel, as well as the Portuguese singer Francisca Duarte.
Hooft was a prolific writer of plays, poems and letters, and his output can be divided into three periods: (1) 1602 – 1611, love poems (2) 1612- 1618, plays (3) 1618 onwards, history. After the death of Bredero, he concentrated on writing his history of the Netherlands (Nederduytsche Historiën), inspired by Roman historian Tacitus. His focus was primarily on the Eighty Years’ War between the Netherlands and Spain. Though his avowed intent in this work was to give a report of the events which was as impartial as possible, he did not really succeed. The first volumes of his massive history were published in 1642, but he died in 1647 before the full oeuvre was in print.
The classic cookbook of the Dutch Golden Age is De Verstandige Kok (The Sensible Cook), published in 1669. Despite the fact that the Dutch dominated the spice trade for centuries, their cooking has never been overwhelmingly spicy. The term “bland” more frequently comes to mind, but in the Golden Age there was an emphasis on variety, freshness, and quantity. You may also be familiar with numerous still lifes of tables groaning with attractive raw ingredients. Here is chicken stewed with vegetables which is meatier than the title suggests. The hen is cooked with mutton (for a rich broth) and veal meatballs are added along with the vegetables.
Om een Hoen te stoven met Groen.
Neemt een goet Hoen wel gesuyvert, laet met eenige stucken Schape-vleesch, met weynigh Zout koken, half gaer zijnde, doet daer by in een stoof-panne, wat Sausisen of kleene Frickedil, oock een goede handt vol Endivie, Salaet, Suringh en Sellery, oock Aspargies, en voor al de Boter niet te vergeten.
To stew a hen with greens
Take a good chicken, well cleaned, and boil it with some pieces of mutton with a little salt. When it is half done, add some sausages or small meatballs in a stewing pan, and a large handful of endives, lettuce, sorrel and celery, also asparagus. Especially do not forget the butter.
Om Frickedillen te maken.
Neemt Kalfs-vleesch, met Kalfs-vet ghehackt, doet daer by Foelie, Noten, Zout, Peper, kneet wel onder een, dan kont gy daar van maken soo groot en kleyn als ‘t u belieft, oock heel in de panne braden; veele nemen een weynigh van de uytterste Schilletjes dun afgeschilt, van Orangie-appelen of Lamoenen, en daer heel kleyn onder gekerft, geeft een heel goede geur, en smakelijck.
To make meatballs
Take veal, chopped with veal fat, add mace, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Knead it well together. You can make them as large or small as you like, or fry it [the chopped meat] in one piece in the pan. Some people take a little of the zest of an orange or lime. Chopped small with the meat it gives a very good fragrance, and very tasty.