Flemish Cookies and Secession

Sunday, December 20, 2009
Posted in category Just Stuff

In my family, Lukken is a tradition at Christmas. I was so excited to find this article online about Lukken. The article describes Lukken as “old-world Belgian sugar cookies, which are buttery and thin, crispy and lightly sweet. They quickly bake in a waffle iron fitted with a plate that marks each cookie with a delicate crisscross pattern.” Additionally, here’s a further description:

Lukken are flat, unleavened cookies with few ingredients, but their simplicity belies their distinctive flavor and texture. If you’ve never tasted lukken, the first bite reveals why they’re a tradition for so many Belgian families in the Quad-Cities and elsewhere.

However, let me make a correction. I dislike the use of the word “Belgian,” which is a most abused word. After all, what does that really mean? What does it mean to be “Belgian?” Being “Belgian” has no particular gravity, which is why the Flemish Separatist movement exists and why Flanders needs to secede and gain independence from the smothering and statist Brussels.

Certainly, making Lukken is a Flemish ritual. My family is from West Flanders, where Lukken is a regional specialty. (As they say there, when in Flanders speak Flemish.) The cookies are properly referred to as West Flemish Lukken. In fact, beer lovers know that West Flanders is home to some of the greatest breweries in the world. Here is a brief description of the meaning of “Lukken”:

Now is the time for all loyal Flemish Americans to rally behind their “lukijzers” and bake traditional New Year’s treat called “lukken”. Not found in the standard Dutch dictionaries, the word “lukke” is listed in De Bo’s “West-vlaamsch Idioticon”, a two-volumes dictionary of typical West Flemish words and expressions, published in 1870. The word “lukke” is defined as a “thin, solid little wafer, usually oval-shaped, baked of flour, butter, and sugar” “Lukken” are given mostly as New Year’s treats, and therefore they are also called “Nieuwjaarswafeltjes”.

The word “luk” is derived from the word “geluk”, which can be translated good luck, good fortune, happiness, as in the expression “luk of raak” hit or miss. Similarly the verb “lukken” is a form of “gelukken”, to succeed, whereas “mislukken” means to fail. The adjective “gelukkig” means happy, and is the usual Dutch word in greetings and good wishes for New Years, birthdays, feastdays, etc., such as “Gelukkig Nieuwjaar”, Happy New Year.

Now, the most important tool, of course, is the Lukken iron. My sister currently has the family iron, which is an ancient piece handed down from our grandmother who died well before either of us were born. Many retailers sell a modern version, but most of these are useless because they are made for Belgian waffles, and are therefore way too thick. An old and original Lukken (or pizzelle) iron makes very thin Lukken, just as it should be. Dan Verkinderen of Ghent, Minnesota has a nice page for Lukken, and he even sells the appropriate irons that he makes himself.

My shipment of family-made, fresh Lukken arrived this week from Minnesota. To me, Lukken is best served by having a couple of them late in the evening, paired with a glass of Port or dessert wine, such as the Kiona 2006 Ice Wine from Yakima Valley that I will open tonight.

This has been my contribution to KDC.com for ongelijkheid (diversity). I’ll try not to get carried away with my bare bones grasp of Dutch, but smakelijk eten!

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7 Responses to Flemish Cookies and Secession

  1. Mike Tuggle says:

    December 20th, 2009 at 11:47 am

    “What does it mean to be “Belgian?” Being “Belgian” has no particular gravity, which is why the Flemish Separatist movement exists “

    So true! Just as “American” can refer to a native of Quebec, Peru, or South Carolina — it’s so broad, it’s meaningless.

  2. Robin says:

    December 21st, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Karen writes: “I’ll try not to get carried away with my bare bones grasp of Dutch, but smakelijk eten!”

    My grasp of Dutch is scarcely better, but “Eet smakelijk” back at ya! We still say this at family gatherings before digging into a meal.

  3. Dianne (Boeve) Yarnell says:

    December 13th, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    My grandmother and grandfather came from Belgium and spoke nothing but Flemish in our home. Grandma always made lukken at the holidays and gave every man in our family a shoebox full at Christmas time.
    My brother is in possession of her iron, which she brought with her when she came to the US many, many years ago. I purchased one from Mr. Verkinderen, but it is not the same. I wanted the old kind you have to use with a gas stove and can only make one cookie at a time (just like grandma’s). However, his irons make the cookies too thin….so with a few modifications from a friend, I now have an iron almost identical to grandma’s. Of all the recipes I found online for lukken, I have never found one that matches my grandmother’s, so I will continue to use her recipe. I am very proud to carry on this part of our family culture and tradition.

  4. Karen De Coster says:

    December 13th, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Dianne – my sister has my grandmother’s iron, and she is now the family lukken maker.

  5. Willy Andries says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    I was born in West Flanders and came to Canada in 1951. Mom had a lukken iron and would bake them and sell them in the local deli. When I was about 12 years old I told her I would bake them after school for her. She okayed that and I baked for several years. Baked 500 per night while listening to my favourite 60′s music. Now over 40 years later I still bake them for the farmer’s and Christmas markets. Some day when I retire from teaching I hope to start a more full time business and spread this Flemish favour around the province of Alberta where I now live. Thanks so much for your informative site.
    Will Andries

    PS I use to work with a Roger De Coster in Delhi ,Ontario where a lot of Flemish folks live; you related?

  6. Karen De Coster says:

    September 30th, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Willy – the only Roger De Coster I am related to is the 5-time world champ pro motocrosser.

  7. Ingrid says:

    April 12th, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    I was born in Roeselare. I too remember my grandmother baking these wonderful cookies. I wish I had her iron but it was discarded when she died. It’s the only thing I would of wanted. I did get one for Christmas and will start this tradition in my family. Thanks for sharing.

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