Dutch Apples and Pancakes
A Day in Delft
I’m thankful that a good majority of the Dutch people I meet can speak English. Theirs is a language that I can’t even begin to learn, much less pronounce. Twelve letter (or more) words are common and they can’t even be read phonetically. A typical word like slagroom, whipped cream in English, is pronounced with a guttural sound akin to expectorating (no offense to the Dutch). Their word for ”˜bread’ is broodje and I am taken aback when it’s pronounced completely differently from what I expect.
While I’m no good at speaking Dutch, I’m ever appreciative of their cuisine. Every day begins with a flaky pastry, usually an appelflap, apple strudel and a koffie verkeerd, a latte. My Bin and I enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the park seated on one of the benches. We gaze at the lake and watch a stream of cyclists pass by while a few pigeons walk gingerly around us, eager for the crumbs that inevitably shatter from the pastries onto the grass. It’s cold, about 13°C, my coffee becomes tepid too quickly but we’re really enjoying the serenity.
After breakfast, my Bin takes off for his meeting and I, armed with a map and my lousy but positive sense of direction, head for the market downtown. The biggest in the Netherlands, the market is at the Binnenrotte near Blaak. Secondhand stuff mixes with food, clothes, and household equipment to produce a market with eclectic flair. I delightedly snap away at vegetables that are real to me only in my illustrated food encyclopedias…
…am agog at the never-ending selection of cheese and spices…
… and discover that the Dutch are crazy about…
… and that they’re not so crazy about fresh fruit. They actually prefer vegetables.
I concur with serious food lovers that going to a country’s food market is the best way to know about what the locals eat and what they like. It’d be a pity to surrender to a McDonald’s or a Starbucks when there’s such a wealth of local variety.
Mr. Potato Head
The Dutch love potatoes. Can I say that again? The Dutch love potatoes. My sister, Charley, a french fry freak if I do say so myself, would love it here in Rotterdam. Potatoes are part of the daily diet and French fry stalls such as the one pictured here are found almost everywhere. With over 250 potato varieties available, it’s easy to see why a Dutch meal without potatoes is like a bike without wheels or a windmill without vanes.
While the Dutch love their potatoes in every conceivable manner, fries, patat, are the most popular snack. Thicker than their French counterpart but not as hefty as the Belgian variety, Dutch french fries are made from a potato of a waxy or crumbly variety and are twice-fried so that the outside is hot and crispy while the interiors are waxy and pleasantly mushy.
Usually served in a cone, I’m not surprised to learn that the Dutch love to eat their patat with mayonnaise. There’s also the patat speciaal “everything on it” option that includes mayonnaise, ketchup, chopped onions, and the patatje oortog “war fries”, where the fries are smothered in mayonnaise, peanut sauce, ketchup, onions, and sometimes, curry sauce too. I tried this and it’s quite good, ja?
Kijk-Kubus (Show Cube house)
As I make my way back to meet up again with my Bin, I pass the Kubuswoningen or cube houses built by architect Piet Blom in 1984. It was designed so that visitors would find out what it would be like to live in a tilted cube on a pole. (Huh, say that again?) The place is actually a museum offering photo panels and screens to further enlighten one on living the “cube on a pole” experience. While I don’t go in, it’s a tremendous photo opp.
There’s a popular street in Rotterdam that’s also it’s oldest. Called Lijnbaan, it’s the Netherland’s first set of pedestrian streets opened in 1953. Diversity finds its home here as Esprit and H&M mingle with bakeries (bakerij), a tattoo parlor, and a cyber café. I like the street’s vitality, the people hurrying about in a not-so-hurried manner, if you can understand that. People stroll and eat patat while busy bikers weave their way in and about the crowd.
It’s here in Lijnbaan that my Bin and I chance upon a fromage, cheese store. I alternately squeal in delight and am silenced by the bright yellow “wagon wheels” of Gouda, which can weigh in at 12 kilos each and the Edam cheese coated in their characteristic red. The Dutch, being the world’s number one cheese producer, are very inventive when it comes to adding herbs and spices to their cheese. I’m also mesmerized by the rich cream cheeses, triple (!) brie, sheep’s cheese, and my ultimate favorite, goat’s cheese. There’s even an endless array of cheese accoutrements ”“ various cheese knives, a fondue pot, wines, graters, and so much more.
Feeling giddy from it all, I ask the fromager for a goat’s cheese that she likes. “You want a young or old goat’s cheese?” She asks me. I don’t even know the difference. Apparently, the younger the goat, the softer the cheese will be. I opt for a soft goat’s cheese, so young it’s almost pliable with that unmistakable “goat-y” taste. My Bin delights in a semi-hard, sharp cheese that the fromager cuts with a massive knife that looks like a lumberjack’s saw ”“ it’s got a U-shaped blade with handles at both ends.
We go back to the hotel with a small baggie of cheese that the fromager kindly cut for us into cubes and we’re looking forward to eating it with tomorrow’s breakfast pastries at the park.
Next up: Apples, pancakes, and a day in Delft.