Zwarte Piet and Jews' biscuits


By Trevor Fox
December 14, 2008
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About 7 years ago I was sitting in an office in Amsterdam mid-morning on 6 December when a guy in a funny costume with his face blackened up rushes in with a sack full of presents for the staff.

" It's Zwarte Piet " I was told, or Black Pete. 6 December is Sint Niklaas day in Holland when it is customary to dish out Xmas presents. I was amazed. It was like the golliwog on the Robertsons label come alive. If this happened in a London office there would be questions in Parliament, accusations of how racist the UK is and a full inquiry. Zwarte Piet was dispensing a box of small cigars for Xmas. I was in two minds as to whether or not to accept the present but I took the cigars.

Last year the management of an Amsterdam hotel left a tin of Jodenkoeken biscuits, or Jews' biscuits, in my room as a loyalty gift for my continued custom. I think it was pure coincidence. I had never heard of Jodenkoeken before. They are made by a company called Davelaar in a town called Alkmaar, north of Amsterdam. Presumably they were made by Jews hundreds of years ago and the name stuck but I cannot find much about this on Google, except for another Dutch biscuit called Negerkoeken or Negro biscuits, so called because they are chocolate covered.

I thought that we could have a character called Friendly Fagin or Jolly Mordechai, with a false hook nose and a big black beard with payos wearing a medieval costume with a yellow star, horns optional, dishing out Chanucah presents. If this was successful perhaps we could franchise the operation, each Fagin with his own territory.

Some years ago my wife was speaking with someone in Spain when she said that she was Jewish. The person to whom she was speaking replied that that could not be possible as my wife was far too nice a person.

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