Dutch history in South Africa
Did you know?
South Africa’s bobotie is a Malay dish: meatloaf, raisins and baked egg served with rice.
One way to connect with Dutch history in South Africa is to taste traditional ‘Cape Dutch’ cooking.
Much like a New Orleans gumbo, South African bobotie (a baked mince tart with a thin layer of egg on top) or potjiekos ('pot food') speaks to the palate in a multi-cultural tongue. South Africans of Dutch origin (Afrikaners) love a good bobotie, but it would not exist on these shores if not for the Indonesian slaves and indentured workers brought to the Cape by the Dutch colonists back in the late 1600s.
As you stroll through the Company Gardens in Cape Town, remember that this is where the original Dutch colonist, Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), planted a large vegetable garden to feed the crews of passing ships. Van Riebeeck arrived with 3 ships in 1652, marking the year South Africa's colonisation began.
Colonial Dutch fare consisted of stewing meat and vegetables. One of the local lessons they learnt from the indigenous Khoi was to add herbs to their dishes. And when the Malay and Indonesian cuisine entered the local scene, it came with a host of spices.
The Dutch held control of the Cape for well over a century, then lost it briefly to the British and then relinquished it completely to the British again early in the early 19th Century. By then, however, the local Dutch identity had morphed into that of the Afrikaner, who spoke a whole new language that sounds more like Belgian Flemish, but still contains many words and expressions of Dutch origin.
But the fine Dutch cultural traditions remained, especially in the Western Cape. Not only is Cape Dutch cooking still wildly popular, but Cape Dutch architecture and early colonial Dutch artifacts are carefully preserved. It speaks of another era and has a unique place in this country’s cultural heritage.
Relations between the Netherlands and South Africa have see-sawed over the generations. There was strong opposition to apartheid from the Netherlands, but since the democratic elections of 1994, Dutch organisations have initiated a number of development and upliftment projects in South Africa.
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