Being a kid, attending my primary school, I learned that our famous national flower, the tulip, was a real original Dutch flower. Every year during spring the teacher would take us to a beautiful botanical garden near our school and show us a wide variety of beautiful tulips, narcissus and crocuses. I loved the flowers, the fact that a plant can wait for one year in a bulb and would suddenly dig its way through the earth and stick a little green piece of its stalk out in the air to take some fresh air. Within days this little stalk would transform into a plant with a beautiful flower.
Around that time my grandmother would repeatedly tell me a story. It was the last year of the Second World War and my grandparents were living in a place near Amsterdam. It was a cold winter and there was no food left anymore. Food was either confiscated by the German troops or it was so expensive that nobody could afford to buy potatoes or whatever would be offered. It was the time of the food tickets but when there is no food the tickets it would not of any use as well. One day my grandfather decided to go and look for food. By foot the man walked 150 kilometres (beyond the German occupied area) and when he finally made it back home he still did not have any food. The reason why they made it through the last harsh month of winter was a surprising simple but lifesaving product that people never ate before; Tulips…
You may wonder just how my grandmother had prepared those tulip bulbs.Let me give you a recipe but first tell you how to prepare the tulip bulb. You peel the outside like a potato and cut the bulb through the middle. Then you have to remove the green ‘pit’ of the bulb. Per person you need at least three tulip bulbs. There were two reasons why people did not want to eat the tulip bulb;
- (In Practice) They thought the tulip bulb was poisonous,
- (Psychologically) How can you eat an expensive tulip bulb? During the golden age, the tulip bulbs´ value was so great that people were able to buy a house along the canals of Amsterdam by just ‘paying’ the owner with a couple of bulbs…
But when you are really hungry you forget everything and will just focus on one thing: survival. With the following recipe my grandmother (and with her thousands of people) managed to make it through that harsh winter.
TULIP BULB SOUP
2 kilo bulbs, 1 onion, 2 pieces of garlic, 2 big carrots, thyme, mint, 3 litres of bouillon, salt, pepper and if you want a little bit of curry powder.
Prepare the bulbs and clean all the other vegetables. Cut all the vegetables in little cubes. Heat up the pan and pour in some oil or a little bit of butter. First colour the onions and garlic, then add the bulbs. Add the herbs, also curry powder, stir it a bit and pour the bouillon on it. Bring it to boil for about 10 minutes.
This is a very basic vegetable soup and of course it is not the soup my granny used to make. I have tried the soup and liked it. The bulbs felt like potatoes while preparing them. It was years later that I learned that our famous Dutch bulbs were not Dutch at all but came out of a country quite far away from us: Turkey. During my trips throughout Turkey I have seen many tulips in the most beautiful areas and was amazed how such a small endemic and local flower could have been transformed into the tulip as we know it nowadays.