Bruegel’s Harvest Meal: Buttermilk Porridge

Worn out from their morning’s work in the wheat fields, the group of peasants in Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Harvesters (1565) relax under a young tree and enjoy a meal of bread, cheese and porridge. Some peasants continue to work, tirelessly threshing a golden field of wheat that stretches far into the distance. They remind those who eat of the labor required to produce the hearty loaves of bread and creamy bowls of porridge enjoyed under the tree.


The Harvesters, 1565


Bruegel was a master in his painter’s guild, but contemporaries called him “Pieter the Peasant” as he liked to dress in peasant’s garb and attend peasant weddings and celebrations. His paintings then depict a world of lived experience. The meal enjoyed by the peasants, amid tall sheaves of wheat on a warm summer’s day, was likely savored by Bruegel as well.

The peasants in The Harvesters are feasting on a sour milk pap–a common meal in the sixteenth century. Should you wish to enjoy a similar dish, here’s a traditional recipe for a Dutch buttermilk porridge.

Buttermilk Porridge

4 1/2 cups (1 liter) buttermilk
3 ounces (60 grams) flour
molasses or stroop (syrup)

Pour the flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Pour in half the buttermilk and mix into a smooth paste. Boil the remaining buttermilk over medium heat and add the flour paste gradually, stirring constantly. Serve with stroop (a fruit syrup is particularly good) or molasses.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s