The Dutch Golden Age Lives On in the Life of Lexington Sophomore
Studying the history of hospitality brought home and heritage into perspective for Lexington student, Casey Kloese '16. “We did a unit on the Dutch Golden Age, 1609-1660,” Kloese reported, “and I felt like I was suddenly face-to-face with the history of my own family.” The class looked at the work of architectural historian Witold Rybczynski, who credits the Dutch of this period with establishing the dual meaning of “home”: the house itself as well as the family, heirlooms, gardens and “sense of satisfaction and contentment that all these conveyed”. Rybczynski claims that homes in the Dutch Golden Age were “unbelievably clean” and ruled by hardworking women who delighted in thrift, neatness and order.
“Even though the Dutch Golden Age was far before my grandmother’s time, I saw all of these qualities in her” Kloese said. “She lived in the Netherlands at the beginning of World War II. She left her country and eventually settled in the U.S.”
Henderika Van Der Zouwen, Kloese’s grandmother, grew up working hard, living on a tight budget. “Often she had to bring the money she earned to her mother,” Kloese recalled, “then for a treat once a week she was able to keep 5 cents; she would use it to buy peppermints.”
Like most of us, Kloese has fond memories of her grandmother’s cooking. “When she made meatballs, to stretch portion sizes she would add lots of bread crumbs; she would make these bread crumbs from stale bread by baking it in the oven. Also, when she baked banket (a puff pastry with almond filling) she would add shredded coconut to the almond paste. Coconut was much less expensive than almonds. If apples fell on the ground from their apple trees, she wouldn’t throw them out, she would peel and cut out the bruises and make apple sauce or pies from them.”
Rybczynski’s research reveals a “list of priorities” for the Dutch, which Kloese said are still built into the values system of today’s Dutch families. The priorities are: first, children; second, home; and third, garden. “This is right on the money for how my grandmother lived and raised her family. Her mission in life was to create a home for her husband and children, and she loved the garden. Having a neat and clean yard was just as important as the home. When my mother was a child, her job was to 'dead-head' the spent roses and sweep the stones and pine needles off of the driveway."
“The interesting thing about studying history,” Kloese said, “is that the ordinary things you’ve known all your life suddenly come into perspective. It never occurred to me that the cultural values the Dutch developed way back in the 17th century would influence home life, family life and the role of women all over the world for so many years.”