Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tulip Mania

One has to doubt un-"sourced" information about ancestors (much of which is myth, or a kernel of truth combined with wishful thinking, and some of may be an educated guess). So take a big dose of skepticism medicine here, as I am about to embark on a journey that likely is a few cups of myth, a gallon or so of wishful thinking, a pinch of an educated guess, and a few grains of truth.

One of the homes that can be identified on the Castello Map of 1660 is that of Pieter Stoutenburgh.(i) And therein lies the hero of our possible myth. In the 1800s, there was a flurry of small-run family history books published (what we might today refer to as vanity press). In early history books, as well as these family histories, we find a tale about Pieter. It seems that he has widely been credited with being the first person to bring tulips to the new world - in his pockets no less! I don't know about you, but those trips across the pond could run from 34 days (the Vergulde Vever in 1658) to well over a year (the Rensselaerswijck in 1636/37) (ii) on the high seas! I probably would have had a whole lot of things on my mind other than pretty flowers. And while there are a number of sources that say the story is true, none of them provide any support for the assertion. So if you are inclined to be gullible, it is time for an anti-gullibility inoculation.

While it could just be active imaginations that have given Pieter Stoutenburgh the role of “first to tulip” on these shores, it is plausible - there might be just a wee pinch of educated guess in there, and maybe a grain of partial truth. The Tulip Craze hit Holland in the 1630s, with everyone speculating left and right in the beautiful flowers. At the peak of the craze, in February of 1937, the price of a single tulip bulb could be driven to as much as 10 times the income of a skilled craftsman. (iii, iv)

As a result, owning tulips was a mark of status. With the tulip craze contemporaneous with the early settlement of New Amsterdam, the timing is right for Pieter to have had an interest in tulips. Further, as a member of a wealthy family, Peter would have had the wherewithal, and perhaps enough admiration for the tulip, to bring it along in his pockets. Even if he should not be credited with bringing the tulip “across the pond”, Pieter's garden, located "above the gate," was one of the most extensive in the city. First to tulip? True - we really don't know. But plausible? Perhaps.

Even my dog has been struck with Tulip Mania
© 2011, all rights reserved
Which brings me to today's Unrecipes.
UN because I have given just the most bare bones outline - the point here isn't the food, per se (though it will be when you serve it) but the use of tulips in the recipes. Note that in using tulips for eating (yes, they are edible - at least the petals - don't know about the rest), all the usual caveats apply, such as no pesticides, herbicides, chemicals of any types or other cides, no sprays, etc. etc. etc.

Tulip Chicken Salad Unrecipe:
Take your favorite recipe for chicken salad (I like to use apples in mine). Then julianne just the petals of a tulip that is in a color that will complement the rest of your ingredients. Toss part of the julienne gently with the chicken salad immediately before serving, then "sprinkle" the rest of the julienne on top like confetti.

Chocolate Mousse Tulip Cups UNrecipe:Soooooo beautiful - the brown of the chocolate and the pink of a spring tulip. You have probably heard of batter fried squash blossoms, stuffed with some type of cheese mixture. The idea here is the same - take the bloom and CAREFULLY scoop your favorite chocolate mousse recipe in it immediately before you serve it. If you do it a long time in advance, the ingredients of the mousse can "stain" the tulip petals just like too much oil on a salad. Then arrange on a plate and voila - really impressive and romantic dessert (did you notice that Valentines day is coming up soon?)

Meanwhile, I can just see Pieter walking home on a soft spring day, with a big bouquet of his precious tulips in his hand to give to his wife, Aefje van Tienhoven...

i  Stokes Iconography of the City of New York - see section w/ legend of Castello Map
ii Olive Tree Genealogy [last accessed January 2011]
iii Tulip mania generally is considered the first recorded speculative bubble (or economic bubble). Of course, as with all speculative crazes, eventually the tulip bubble burst.
iv Tulipomania: The Story of the World's most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions it Aroused, by Mike Dash (2001)
v Irrational Exhuberance, by Robert Schiller (2005, 2nd Edition, Princeton University Press).

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