Strange and funny Dutch traditions: beschuit met Muisjes®
The Netherlands has a number of traditions you don’t find anywhere else. Take beschuit met Muisjes®, for example, the treat that is served to friends and family after the birth of a child in the Netherlands.
If the newborn has older, school-going siblings, they often bring the treat with them to school to serve to their teacher and classmates.
Beschuit is a round, hard and dry biscuit or rusk (also known as Dutch crispbakes) that's about a centimetre thick and made from twice-baked bread.
The top of the biscuit is covered in a layer of butter, which also serves to keep the Muisjes® from falling off. Muisjes®, which means mice, are seeds from the anise plant (aniseed) covered in a sugary coating.
When do Dutch eat beschuit met Muisjes®?
It is not entirely clear where the name comes from. Some think that it’s because the aniseeds have a little tail which makes them look like tiny little mice.
Others believe that it is a reference to the fertile nature of the small rodent, something Amsterdammers will be all too familiar with.
Typically, pink and white Muisjes® are served when a girl is born, and blue and white when a boy is born. This is a fairly recent development, however, as the blue kind were not introduced until 1994. Before then white Muisjes® were served for the birth of boy. The pink ones have been in use since 1860.
Beschuit met Muisjes® originates from the Zaanstreek (Zaan region). While celebrating the birth of a child by serving something sweet is an old tradition, it is unknown exactly when the anise-based treat was adopted.
Once upon a time, beschuit was eaten only by the affluent classes during festivities. The dried biscuits were very exclusive. Beschuit covered in lots of sugar was considered to be a real treat. Commoners instead ate white bread with sugar on top.
Medicinal properties of aniseed
Through the ages different cultures have attributed various medicinal and healing properties to the sweet and aromatic aniseeds and also to anise oil. The seeds were used in the preparation of food, drinks and medicine.
Among other things, it was claimed that anise was beneficial for milk production in the mother. In the 17th century an anise-based liqueur called anisette was served to the mother right after birth.
It was said that it would help restore the uterus to its original size, along with warding off evil spirits.
Have you tried Muisjes® on beschuit or on bread? Did you like it?
*Muisjes® is a registered trademark of Koninklijke De Ruijter B.V.