This is what the Dutch call a
"Speculaas Moulin" - a windmill
cookie, with almond and ginger
spices. In Belgium they are called
"Speculoos" cookies. In both
countries they are a specialty of St.
Nicholas Eve (Dec. 5) and Day.
St. Nicholas is the patron saint of many countries, cities and groups, including millers, sailors, children, incarcerated people, Holland and New York City.
At left is a cookie my wife Alice purchased yesterday in Belgium. It is a St. Nicholas Day specialty. It has a windmill on it because Holland it's specialty of Holland and other low countries threatened by floods.
Hurricane Sandy recently shut down much of New York City and reminded us of the Dutch skill at keeping out water. Much of Holland is at or below sea level and the windmills were used to pump out the "polders", the areas surrounded by dikes (Dutch word for embankments).
The Port of Rotterdam is a great example of Dutch engineering to keep water at bay. It is also where my mother, Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006), was born. (Her father was a naval captain and she grew up near naval bases.) Her book, The Winged Watchman (1962), was republished in 1997 after 20 years being out of print. It has sold 45,000 copies in the reprint version and has been optioned for a movie and is in process of being the subject of a comic book. It is about This book by my mother has special relevance in light of Hurricane Sandy, which caused most of its damage because of flooding and caused most of the lost economic activity because of the electricity outages.
First published in 1962, The Winged
Watchman has sold 45,000 copies
in reprint since 1997 and was
optioned for a movie.
New York City has lost the skills of its Dutch colonists and Hurricane Sandy did major target="_blank">damage to the areas of NYC near water. If the Dutch were still in charge this wouldn't have happened. NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo has assessed the damage statewide as $33 billion and has called for $30 billion in Federal aid. Speaker Christine Quinn has put the New York City damage (which would fit within the statewide number) at $26 billion and has called for $20 million and a surge-control system to prevent 15-foot waves from cascading through New York City streets.
Bring back the Dutch! They first came to New York when the Dutch East India Company in 1609 sent English navigator Henry Hudson to explore the river now named after him. He went far upriver into what is now Canada and wrote back to his sponsors that beavers lived on the river in abundance. A Dutch settlement, New Amsterdam, was founded in Manhattan largely to support trapping beavers and sending them to Europe for women to wear. The New York City coat of arms has two beavers on it as well as a four windmill wings in honor of the Dutch settlers.
Seal of the City of New York..
Note windmill wings and two
The Dutch have been facing these flooding problems for many centuries. Their world preeminence in building windmills to pump out water also made them experts in making sails for the mill wings and this helped make them a global naval power for a time.
The Dutch have developed many kinds of technology to deal with today's challenges to their flood-threatened system of polders. New York needs to get their advice. And The Winged Watchman provides both a history of the importance of windmills in Dutch history and an education in the ways to deal with flooding.