‘I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I always enjoy a stroopwafel’
Visiting the great granddaughter of a 19th-century stroopwafel baker from Gouda. ‘When I leave Gouda station, and walk into town via Crabethstraat, Singel and Kleiwegbrug, I notice with sadness how much of the place where I was born in 1912 has changed. But one thing is the same: the chance to get real Gouda stroopwafels wherever you look.’ So wrote Dirk Zaal, the son of stroopwafel baker Teun Zaal from Gouda, in 1973. On a warm day in 2016 we visited Yvonne Moeijes, Dirk’s daughter and Teun’s granddaughter, in the green village of Bilthoven.
Yvonne had already whetted our appetites with amazing stroopwafel paraphernalia from her private archive of her grandfather Teun. A photo of a stroopwafel tin from 1822 with the name T. Zaal clearly visible on it was proof for us that we were about to meet a relative of one of Gouda’s first stroopwafel bakers. With freshly baked stroopwafels under our arms—as we also have a reputation to maintain!— we head to Bilthoven. A lively woman in her 70s opens the door to us. She gives us a friendly smile and a warm welcome. We are served delicious coffee, unwrap our stroopwafels, and then carefully look round the room to see if we can spot a hint of Teun.
‘I still remember my grandfather well. Of his eight grandchildren, I was his favourite, I think. If I left sprouts on my plate, he always ate them up. When I knew him, he had already stopped working as a baker and lived in Zeist’, explains Yvonne. Her father did not become a baker. ‘He loved cooking, especially something that was a bit refined. And he was good too. But he always left the kitchen looking like a pigsty’, she smiles. ‘One of my father’s brothers did work in cooking and baking. He baked delicious butter cookies. My grandpa died in 1950, when I was 5. I’m still angry that I wasn’t allowed to go to his funeral. But back then, people thought that it was not something for children. I was furious.’
A brown leather book
Teun did not work as a baker from the time that Yvonne remembers, so she has no stories about trying her first stroopwafel at her grandfather’s bakery and burning her fingers on the syrup. ‘But I regularly went to Gouda with my father, for example to visit the old maid from the bakery who lived on Tiendeweg. Sometimes we went to drink something at De Zalm, next to the old store. That was really a place to be at the time. I enjoyed going there with my father. The girls would say to me: “You’re a real Zaal”.’
Yvonne’s father, the son of the stroopwafel baker, was interested in what Teun did. He carefully kept a small book with a brown leather cover, filled with beautiful old handwriting. And this book now belongs to Yvonne. It is no longer pristine: pages are missing here and there, and some pages are missing a corner. It is Teun’s old notebook from the bakery, with recipes for siroopwafels, and one for suikerwafels. ‘My grandfather always said: ”Herfst bakes stroopwafels, Kamphuisen suikerwafels”.’
Yvonne then produces a paper grocery bag from which she takes a bronze and a silver medal from the Exhibition for Bakery, Milling and Cookery in The Hague in 1898. Yvonne does not know if her grandfather won the prizes for his stroopwafels or his sprits, which he also baked. She also cherishes a stroopwafel tin and a paper bag, still completely intact: ‘Special Address for Genuine Gouda Siroopwafels, Established 1822, Acclaimed Everywhere’. She is not sure how old the bag and tin are. What is clear is that Teun was proud that the business dated back to 1822, when it was based at Turfmarkt 73. Who the founder was is unknown. We visit the local archive, but despite an extremely patient and helpful archivist looking at the notes in the registers for us, this information was not to be found. What does come to light is that Teun had a brother, Nicolaas, who was also a baker.
Pianos and stroopwafels
From Dirk’s notes, Yvonne discovered that her grandfather also ‘provided deliveries for dinners’ – or catering, in modern parlance. And he was married to the youngest daughter of cheese seller Dirk de Bruin. The building at Markt 32, where Teun later located his store, was actually intended for his brother-in-law to set up an organ and piano business. However, the brother-in-law was not interesting in doing this and preferred to remain a music teacher. So Teun was given the opportunity, and after some hesitation he relocated his store. According to the stories passed down through the family, this store was a great success. Teun sent tins of stroopwafels that had been soldered shut – like the one Yvonne has – to Indonesia and America, primarily to Dutch emigrants there. Even back then, the stroopwafel was something to ward off homesickness. Yvonne: ‘I don’t have a sweet tooth. I prefer to eat a sausage roll than a cake. But I always enjoy a stroopwafel.’ Her grandfather would be very happy to hear that.