Herring – a Dutch Passion

Raw herring for the people!

One of the things about Dutch culinary habits that is hard to understand for a lot of people outside the Netherlands, is our passion for eating raw herring.  There even is a holiday (semi-official) associated with this passion: Vlaggetjesdag (Day of the Small Flags).

Originally, this referred to the day that the ships would first test their engines after lying still during the winter, before going out to sea for the herring catch.  There was a set day for this event, after Whitsun Sunday, when the ships would parade in the harbor decorated with small flags between their masts.

Herring Ship in Scheveningen

Nowadays, Vlaggetjesdag is celebrated when the first catch of herring returns to harbor, or, more accurately, when the first New Herring (the new season’s catch) is made available to the public for consumption.  On this day, usually around the middle of June, there will be lines at the herring vendors and happy, smiling faces when the herring is consumed.

Dutch Fishbureau Advertisement

This first herring catch is big business.  Every year, the first barrel that makes it into harbor is auctioned with the proceeds going to charity; this barrel can go for well in excess of 50,000 euros and has been close to 100,000 euros on occasion.

Also, newspapers will publish their review of whose herring is the best of that year’s catch.  Winning this contest can result in a couple of extra euros per herring for that vendor and lines that are out of this world.

So, next time you make it to the Netherlands around mid-June, go check out the herring and enjoy a couple of these delicacies!

Author: jansenphoto

A Fresh Perspective Photography is more than just a vehicle for capturing the world around me; it provides me with a palette and a set of brushes, with which I paint not only what I see, but also look to express the emotions that are evoked by the scene in front of me in that moment. Growing up in the Netherlands exposed me to a wide cross-section of visual arts that laid the foundation of my photographic view of all that surrounds me. Early influences were the Dutch Masters of the 17th century, to whom I was introduced by my grandfather during museum explorations; favorites among them are the scenes of quotidian life depicted by Jan Steen and Frans Hals and the vivid landscapes of Jacob van Ruisdael. My classical high school education was supplemented by the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, where I spent many a lunch hour exploring its great collection. Here I was introduced to surrealism with a particular love for the approach taken by Salvador Dali; Dali also rekindled my appreciation for the work of Hieronymus Bosch, who often showed the folly of us mortals. Universal Connections My approach to any photographic subject is to look for understanding first; in this I look to establish either a connection between the viewer and the subject or capture the connection of the subject with its surroundings. The captured image then aims to portray this connection from a perspective that is part of my personal interpretation. This interpretation is often a form of externalized introspection, which may alternately display the connection of isolated beings and items with their environment or highlight the whimsy of the profound world, in which we find ourselves. The universe is full of connections, many of which are waiting to be discovered; part of my journey as a photographer is to document these connections. Any assignment, be it an event, a product shoot or a portrait session is always approached through communication with the client; this is where the first connection is established. Ideas are exchanged and a collaborative plan of action forms, ultimately resulting in a set of images that aim to exceed the expectations of each client. And, lest we forget, it is important to have fun while practicing the serious business of photography!

14 thoughts on “Herring – a Dutch Passion”

  1. This is fascinating, thanks Frank! What interesting history and current day practices — it sounds like quite a celebration. I love the photo of the woman about to eat the herring. 🙂 Thanks again, and have a wonderful day.

  2. That’s a really interesting post, I never knew how much the Dutch liked herrings! Unfortunately I do not hold such high regard for your famous fish….

  3. I’m a little envious of your ability to get fresh herring so often and easily (though I must disagree with your assessment of pickled herring, yummy when done right). Here (USA) your options are either supermarket pickled in a jar (ugh) or go to one of the classier German restaurants.
    I confess, I have a weakness for matjes and find myself visiting the local Brauhaus about once a month just for that reason.

    1. In some of the major cities on the East Coast in the USA, you may be lucky enough to find some new herring from mid-June through July. I’ll admit that I never acquired a taste for pickled herring, nor most pickled foods 🙂

      There’s nothing like a good local Brauhaus for an excellent meal! You’ll never leave hungry there 🙂

      1. The owner and head chef of the Brauhaus knows me at this point, we usually have a glass of Apfelkorn together when I visit.
        East Coast huh? I suppose I could put up with East-coasters in order to acquire fresh herring lol

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