Life Style

This is why we eat oliebollen on New Year’s Eve

Age-old tradition

The history of the oliebol goes back a long way. For example, in a painting by Aelbert Cuyp from 1652 you would already see a pan with oliebollen. The first recipe that historians can find is from a later year, namely from 1667. At that time the delicacy was not called oliebol, but oil cake! Historian Manon Henzen tells that she suspects that they are much older. “We just don’t have any recipes anymore!”

For the poor

Because there was no electric light in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the winter period was very cold and dark. Just like now, people tried to make it cozy with lots of lights. The poor would come to the doors, sing a song and get something to eat or drink. What did they get to eat? An oliebol!

“They were prepared with ingredients that were available in the winter: flour, yeast and dried fruits,” says Manon. In addition, oliebollen are filling, which is useful when there is a lot of hunger, and they are also just handy to hand out!

Differences from now

Actually, the oliebol is very similar to the very first discovered recipe. Historians do think that they would have been somewhat flatter in the past, because less oil was used. A pan of oil was quite expensive in the seventeenth century.

All in all, we can say that an oliebol with currants is something typically Dutch and that it really belongs to this cold winter month!


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