Where did the food come from?
Perishable food came from the vicinity until the middle of the 19th century. But for centuries, Antwerp has also been importing crops from overseas, which is possible thanks to its location as a port city. This global trade was very extensive (and therefore not new).
The cityscapes from the 16th and 17th centuries portrayed the city and the surrounding countryside together. As a result, they show in detail the daily supply of mainly perishable food. This is also what this impressive work by Jan Wildens shows:
Some men work the land, a woman milks a cow, there are grain fields and windmills. Women walk into town with milk on their heads, with a basket containing perhaps cheese, or with a basket of vegetables. Pigs, sheep and ducks walk towards town, possibly to the market.
View of Antwerp, Jan Wildens, Southern Netherlands, 1636, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv/cat. No A 616
For centuries, the people from Antwerp saw and smelled the food wich came tot the city. The supply of food changed strongly in the 19th century due to industrialization. Steamships, trucks with refrigeration systems and containers deliver food faster and from further away. The origin is less visible.
In the 16th century, Antwerp quickly grew into a city of 100,000 inhabitants. In that period, Antwerp's trade specialized in overseas crops: spices from Asia, cane sugar from the Canary Islands and later from Brazil. There, slaves worked on plantations until the abolition of slavery in the mid-19th century.
In the picture, you can see sugar cones in Theodoor Galle's sugar refinery. The same cones were found by archaeologists in the Suyckerhuys in Raapstraat in Antwerp. Around 1545 the Italian family Balbani from Lucca founded a refinery there.
Die referenzierte Medienquelle fehlt und muss neu eingebettet werden.
Above: The sugar refinery, Theodoor Galle, 16th century, Etching on paper, MAS, AV.2007.003.123
Right: Sugar cone from the Suyckerhuys, an Antwerp refinery in the Raapstraat, Antwerp, 16th – 17th century, Ceramic, City of Antwerp Archaeology Department
The liquid, refined sugar was poured into the sugar cones to solidify. The congealed sugar, the so-called "sugar bread", took the shape of the cone.