Learning about heritage through food

More than 2,000 people came together to celebrate their heritage at the 27th Holland Festival, held at Gemmrig Park, in Long Beach. For many of the attendees (around 70% with roots in the former Dutch East Indies), it is a yearly reunion with family and friends where they enjoy typical foods from Holland and Indonesia. This year there was a significant increase of younger attendees. The TIP booth drew a nice crowd—it presented a variety of activities and held a fundraising raffle with interesting prizes.

The following day The Indo Project organized the 3rd annual lecture, renamed TipTalks, held at the Skylinks Golf Club in Long Beach. This year it was held on Memorial Day; the presenters were Jeff Keasberry and Jamie Stern.

“It is vital to understand where the traditions you identify with come from. They link us to others and help us tell the Indo Dutch story in a more full and rich way.”

Part of TIP’s mission is to educate about the past and help preserve culture for the future. As 1st and 2nd generation Indos slowly disappear, their knowledge is also lost. We have found that younger generations are showing more interest in their heritage, getting more in touch with the Indo within, and raising more questions regarding customs etc. I believe that “it is vital to understand where the traditions you identify with come from. They link us to others and help us tell the Indo Dutch story in a more full and rich way.” Therefore this year’s theme was: ‘Learning About Heritage Through Food’—the social unifier. Unlike what some people were assuming about this subject, it was not about exchanging recipes or demonstrating cooking techniques, rather this day was about explaining Indo history and traditions since the 17th century and the emergence of a hybrid culture and fusion cuisine in South East Asia. I used the journey of tracing my family history and ancestral roots through food to add to the program. The Dutch Indies people were instrumental in creating new food traditions in South East Asia and in migratory countries like the Netherlands and USA. Cultural heritage is in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the religions we follow, the skills we learn. Sometimes we can touch and see what makes up a culture; other times it is intangible. Cultural heritage provides an automatic sense of unity and belonging within a group and allows us to better understand previous generations and the history of where we come from.

“Indos residing in the Netherlands are two times more likely to eat Indonesian and Indo Dutch Fusion Foods compared to the Indos in USA.”

Trying to preserve Indo culture in USA is difficult. Jamie Stern’s findings from her Worldwide Indo Challenge research showed that “Indos residing in the Netherlands are two times more likely to eat Indonesian and Indo-Dutch Fusion Foods compared to the Indos in USA”. She also showed that there are more Indos per square mile, which simplifies cultural maintenance. As opposed to the USA, where scattered geography makes it more difficult to retain that distinct cultural identity.’

In addition to diaspora, many Indos don’t speak or understand Dutch, which is also part of Indo-Dutch culture. Most publications on the subject of history and culture are available in Dutch. During my presentation I explained that eating Indo-Dutch food triggers memories. It is a way to bring comfort and get in touch with your past. A good meal recalls a dinner table full of friends and family members long gone. Jamie explained the science of smell and how it triggers memories. She also presented the healing properties of prominent spices in Indo-Dutch cooking.

I concluded that the way to preserve Indo-Dutch culture in the USA is to create more awareness about our food, not only by making it more accessible and cooking it more often, but also by telling the stories behind each dish. It is time that Indo-Dutch cuisine receives the accolades it so richly deserves. The cooking style is a reflection of the Indo-Dutch diaspora — a unique blend merging the best of both worlds. In the Netherlands the ‘Indische Rijsttafel’ has been officially added to the list of National Inventory Intangible Cultural Heritage in January 2016. If you are interested in your family’s heritage, food is one of the best places to start, it is often the last tangible trace of cultural traditions to go!

Talking about food for more than two hours left the audience craving food. The Indo gathering was not complete without enjoying good conversation and even better oriental finger foods.

©JeffKeasberry for The Indo Project

TipTalk2016_Jamie_2 TipTalk2016_Jeff_2 TipTalk2016_Group TipTalks2016_Jamie TipTalks2016_Jeff

7 Comments on “Learning about heritage through food

  1. My daughters- 3rd generation are both very much into their Indo heritage. My mother-in-law -Jean Louise Duma Jansen was a fabulous INDO cook. My husband became a cook in the US and taught our daughters how to make so many of his favorite family meals. One of my daughter’s dreams is to have an INDO food cart in Portland OR. One day we hope to make that happen!

  2. TIPTALKS Long Beach: “Indos residing in the Netherlands are two times more likely to eat Indonesian and Indo-Dutch Fusion Foods compared to the Indos in USA”.

    Just before I received your “Indo Project Newsletter” I mailed out some questions to friends and families in the Netherlands. I have 2 questions for them.
    How many times in a week do they eat Indo food?
    How many time do they cook the Indo food?
    From the many respondents the following conclusions can be drawn.
    Married couples both Indo’s are more likely to eat every day Indo food.
    Married couples with one being Indo and the other being Dutch/European are most likely eat Indo food once a week to once a month. If the wife is a European, the man most of the time is the cook of Indo food.
    If he is not able to cook, he buys and take home some Indo food.

    Some respondents told me the following:
    Both parents and daughter do eat every day Indo food. He wrote me “even rice with rice” alone. His wife wants to cook for everybody and he told her to slowdown.

    One Indo man was married to an Indo woman and got 3 children. Years later he married a German blond. Two of the 3 children married an Indo and do eat every day Indo food. The Indo father with the German woman and one son who married a Dutch girl eat only once a week some Indo food.

    One Indo lives only with his son. He is not able to cook. His son does it very well. They eat only once a month some Indo food.

    One Indo told me he and his bodies travel through the Netherlands to find Indo restaurants and judge their food.
    They have a very mix feeling about the quality and taste of the food they got served.

    Comparing Indo’s from the Netherlands to the Indo’s in California:

    In the 50/60 years about 250,000 Indo’s and totoks came to the Netherlands. About 50,000 came to the USA.
    But the big difference, most of the 50,000 families who came to the US have both an Indo father and Indo mother.
    The Indo’s who are married to native women, stayed in the Netherlands.
    Beside that it is very hard to compare a country with the size of Michigan to the US.
    California alone is 10.5 larger than the Netherlands.
    The women in the Netherlands work mostly part time and have more time to cook than American Indo women, who have full time jobs. Cooking Indo food is more complex and ask more time.
    Also in Ca we are bless with all the Asian ingredients, but I do not know if Indo’s in other states have that option.

    I have my doubts about your conclusion at the top of my writing.
    What do you understand by Indo-Dutch Fusion food?

    • @Ron:

      This one post will be the only time I plan to spend on your unwarranted comments and opinions of my research. While I think it’s excellent that you’re gathering data, I don’t see how it has the academic credibility or authority to pick apart my extremely well researched (and unique!) work.

      1) To truly understand the statistics and context behind my statement: “Indos residing in the Netherlands are two times more likely to eat Indonesian and Indo Dutch Fusion Foods compared to the Indos in the USA.” You will have to read my published research which can be found in:

      a) “From Brown Dutchmen to Indo- Americans: Changing Identity of the Dutch-Indonesian (Indo) Diaspora in America” published in the International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society. This was a joint collaboration between Dr. Azlan Tajuddin and myself.

      and

      b) My Master’s Thesis: “Maintenance of Cultural Identity through Virtual Social Networking: The Indo People Post Diaspora”

      My research and methodology was approved and supported by five PhDs, two of which were department Chairs at separate universities. Not to take away from your time and effort, but who has approved of your work and statements?

      2) My use of the word fusion is not to be taken as a newly fabricated phrase but rather a descriptive easy way to summarize (mid-presentation) all the variety that can be found within “Indo food”. It includes Indonesian elements, Dutch elements, dishes that are unique to the Indos (and do not particularly belong solely to the Dutch or Indonesians), and even the new variations that are being introduced due to dietary needs and restrictions. Had you attended our TIPTalk you would have had the opportunity to fully grasp the inclusiveness of my use of the word “fusion”.

      Have you ever considered taking the time to work with TIP, rather than to comment against us and draw negative attention? Perhaps you should.

      • Jamie,
        Because I do not agree with your statement, I am negative? That is quit a statement!
        If I will consider taking the time to work with TIP?
        If only one person is right, why should I? Also why are you keeping the TIP meeting at Long-beach and not more centralized? Many Indo’s are living along side the Foothills.
        For your info during the eighties I was one of the persons who joint my niece and her spouse and cooked Indo food for Avio and other Indo clubs, Caltech, American Asian Museum, some well-known Americans and so on.

  3. Meanwhile I did some google work with the word “Fusion”.
    In general it means changing, adding, modifying an original receipt.
    That means there is only one kind of Randang Padang (on Java rendang).
    Have found about 34 rendang receipts on the internet. Most from people from java.
    They all differ from the original Minangkabau people from west Sumatra. Javanese people nearly always add sugar to it and less lombok. But they also differ from spices. The Indo’s in the Netherlands have the same fantasy.
    Also the old cookbooks from Keijner and JMJ Catenius van der Meijden (rendong) are different.
    From now on they are all called Fusion Rendang?

  4. I believed the question of Ron Geenen to support the statement “Indos residing in the Netherlands are two times more likely to eat Indonesian and Indo-Dutch Fusion Foods compared to the Indos in USA”, is valid. In today’s world of ever changing information, the more reseach the better. It doesn’t mean the past research was incorrect, just maybe not complete. The information is only as good as the audience questioned. So, since I attended the TIP Talk in May 2016, I do recall, there was a breakdown between generations covered. So I question was the older, first generation of Indos thoroughly surveyed in California for feedback?

    • Thank you, Leroy. The older generation of Indo’s are indeed more custom to the Indo food than the younger generation. In such research it is very important during this questionnaire also to add the age of the Indo person. Indisch4Ever did this a while ago. There is a surprising difference. The research is important and a good start, but not finish.

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