Indo Dutch culture is threatened with extinction. With the passing of older generations with roots in the former Dutch East Indies, traditions are slowly disappearing. Their children and grand children are very well assimilated in American society. In my opinion it’s important where you live in the present, at the same time you should not let go of your cultural heritage.
Interest in cultural heritage has increased and become sexy with the introduction of DNA tests. Maintaining our unique and traditional expression however, has become harder in the face of globalization and loss of Dutch language. The Indo Dutch community is also known to be diverse and divided. Regardless of education, religious beliefs, political views or sexual orientation, we seem to find common ground at the dinner table. Indofood proofs to be the great unifier! Not just eating but also talking about favorite dishes, the people you shared it with in the past, where to buy ingredients, how to prepare it, etc.
Breaking krupuk together suggests dialogue, communication and peace. Socializing this way will remove barriers, build stronger relationships and help us explore our culture.
Food is at the heart of our Indo Dutch society. It brings us together and is a means to preserve our cultural heritage. Here are some tips:
1. Make a connection and reinforce ties
A sit-down dinner allows you to stay connected with family and friends. Chat and show interest in the other person’s life and background. Having strong connections and social support is important for enjoying life.
2. Learn about history and values
indo Dutch food customs emphasises the values of hospitality, making people feel welcome, comfortable (senang) and at home. The standard welcoming greeting to guests has always been the question: “Have you eaten?” It’s about bringing people together, regardless of age, conditions or social class. It’s a chance for elders to pass on their stories and for your family to verify their beliefs and ideologies. It’s a place to meet other people, like friends and neighbors.
3. Share culture and memories
Culture is learned and shared, not inherited. Organize a ‘kumpulan’ (Indonesian word for gathering), a great way to show off the dishes of our Indo Dutch culture to the younger people. Whenever you host a potluck, encourage your guests to bring a traditional dish. Something that has a special meaning, like a favorite childhood dish. It’s not only about the food, but also to share knowledge, memories, culture and mutual respect. It’s about ‘gezelligheid’ the Dutch word for joyous gatherings.
D. Learn about food & share
Cooking together is a great way to pass down family recipes and share information about the background. Younger generations get to learn grandma’s and granddad’s cooking tips. It’s a great way to pass down treasured family recipes. Some of these indo Dutch home cooked dishes cannot be found in any restaurant. Indo’s are known for always talking about food, even while they are eating they discuss what they will eat the following day. Bring something to eat when you visit people. Give left-overs to guests to take home, etc.
E. Sense of identity & belonging
The dinner table is a place to reaffirm one’s identity as an Indo. Food is at the heart of our community and reminds us of where we came from and gives us a sense of belonging. Coming together and sharing a meal is the most communal and binding thing in nearly every place in the world.
F. Participate in traditions
Visit cultural festivals where traditional food is served, formal country celebrations, birthdays and weddings. Learn about the traditions and food culture of Indonesia and the Netherlands and the combined Indo Dutch fusion cuisine. I offer cooking workshops or you can get my cookbook.
As I got older, my interest in my Indo Dutch roots and appreciation for traditions and customs grew. I felt a need to preserve and pass down the food culture that brought me so much joy.
I wrote the cookbook Indo Dutch Kitchen Secrets (the first heritage cookbook in English) to document the dwindling unique cuisine and preserve the food customs for future generations. It meant going back to the roots to attempt to rediscover what is nearly lost.
To read more about our history and culture go to The Indo Project a non-profit organization. Their mission is to keeping alive the Indo history and culture in future generations. I serve on the board and volunteer in all kinds activities. We are looking for more volunteers interested in their cultural heritage. This renewed interest has also resulted in all kinds of social groups forming on facebook. If you happen to live in Southern California, check out popular SoCal Indo.
Many aspects of culture are difficult to learn in books, online, museums, including etiquette, body language and humor. The best way to preserve the culture is to keep it alive and participate in person. Gather as a group, for meals, events or just conversation – oh, bring a snack!