DURING THE NINETEENTH
AND EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURIES
This article focuses on modernization of diet in the Netherlands
between 1800 and about 1950, which covers the time span when the
Dutch (and most of Europe) moved to a modern consumption pat-
tern. The Dutch case-study is examined on the basis of contemporary
accounts, with consumption and price figures: the treatment is mainly
statistical, with additional qualitative data. This entails that the health
and nutrition aspects are as important as the socio-cultural ones, and
the article is concerned with the mass of the Dutch population, rather
than just the elite. Attention is paid to high Dutch death rates and the
dietary reasons for them, food production and prices, diet (potatoes),
alcohol consumption and civilization offensives and (mal)nutrition.
The main theme is change in consumption patterns as a facet of the
process of modernization. In that sense, the Dutch were not espe-
cially unusual, but a good example of a general trend, naturally with
their own idiosyncrasies.
We now live, in the early twenty-first century in the West, in a foodobsessed culture. Food is important. Those of us who have travelled to less affluent areas in the world will have noticed that food matters there as well, but often more in terms of whether there is going to be enough of it for the evening meal today, tomorrow and next week. In the West, it is more generally a question of lifestyle. We live to eat, and what and how and where we eat announces and even determines our status and identity in our communities. That was not always the case, of course.