The road to Western Europe
Spices have been finding their way to Western Europe since the Middle Ages, yet the trade routes were long and uncertain. Supply remained limited and spices extremely expensive. Until the end of the sixteenth century that is, when the Dutch found their own way to the East and took over the trade in spices from the Portuguese and the Spaniards. It is the start of the Golden Age.
Dutch East India Company (VOC)
The VOC was formed in 1602. Shiploads of pepper, cinnamon, clove, mace and nutmegs found their way to Holland. Here the spices were processed in mills and prepared for consumption. Spices appeared to add real flavour to the simple and tasteless food of the seventeenth century. Besides, spices were blessed with medicinal powers. Demand continued to outstretch demand, keeping the prices of spices high. As expensive as pepper, as the Dutch phrase goes!
Between 1600 and 1900, more than a 1,000 mills were built in the Zaanstreek region. Sawmills, oil mills, paint mills, barley mills, flax mills, spice mills etc. The Zaanstreek region was the first industrial area in Europe or even the world. Yet the mass arrival of the steam engine in the industry at the end of the nineteenth century meant the end of the mill era. Wind power was replaced by steam power.
De Huisman and Indie’s Welvaren were two mills at the Blauwe Pad in Zaandam, where snuff was produced and spices processed. Halfway through the previous century, both mills had to make way for urban expansion. They were rebuilt at the Zaanse Schans, i.e. the exterior of De Huisman and the interior of Indie’s Welvaren. This is how these two mills were united with each other’s best features to continue under the name of De Huisman. In 2010/2011, the mill was restored and a spice magazine was established in it, named after the mill where the millstones once came from: Indie’s Welvaren.