The Milkmaid as a frugal cook

The kitchen in which the Milkmaid is busy cooking, and the scene is shown in wintertime, as we can deduct from the foot stove which is on the floor. Given proverbial Dutch household neatness this stove would certainly have been stored in the attic during the warmer season. Thus it is cold air that gently blows into the kitchen trough the small broken window pane. Outside, a pale sun lights both the glass and the inside of the frame, especially by the broken pane of glass.


The Milkmaid, who may actually be Tanneke Everpoel, is dressed in many layers of winter clothes, consisting of a sturdy yellow chamois leather top and a blue wool skirt over a red wool skirt. She is wearing a white head cap and as she is at work her forearms have been rolled up. She is slowly pouring milk into an earthenware vessel (enthusiastic school kids like to watch from close by to see the milk actually pouring down from the jar into the vessel).

What dish is she cooking? She is most probably turning stale bread into a wonderful and wholesome dish as she is making a bread pudding, consisting of bread (which if old and stale would otherwise go to waste), eggs and milk. This dish required slow cooking over a low heat in an oven.


If there is a deeper meaning hidden within in this scene - it may have to do with the blessing of sharing and eating our daily bread, providing nourishment to the entire family. Within Christian - especially Roman Catholic faith the communal sharing of bread has a particular symbolic place.

Enthusiastic school kids visiting the Rijksmuseum like to watch from very close by to see the milk actually pouring from the jug down into the vessel. Eppur si muove! I do also say: it pours!

A fine book on the art of cooking in the 17th century: Marleen Willebrands, De verstandige Kok, De rijke keuken van de Gouden Eeuw, Publisher: Pereboom, Bussum, 2006.


This page forms part of a large encyclopedic site on Delft. Research by Drs. Kees Kaldenbach (email). A full presentation is on view at

Launched December, 2002; Last update March 1, 2017.

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