Holland, my sweet HollandSoon I shall see you no moreHow is it that time so quickly goes by?And now I returnTo Nigeria, my beloved HomelandIt’s unbelievable that 4 years have gone so fast. That 52 months later, we leave the Netherlands, the place we’ve called home for so long…..to return to that which we speak of as the homeland, Nigeria.I still remember when we arrived on that cold and frosty spring morning. My tummy heavy with child, flanked by husband and two daughters. We arrived as 4 and now we leave as 5 – the addition of a son bringing us to the perfect number, five. Well, perfect just because I say so!This month’s ´Favourite Things´ are devoted entirely to my favourite Dutch things; things that will no longer dot my landscape, or line my shelves or be stashed in the deep-freezer of my local supermarket for that matter in a short while!
Cows on the Landscape (aka. The Scenery)Living in Holland has warmed me up to the expression Lazy Cow. One must conclude, as I do (and rightly so methinks), that Dutch cows lend themselves to the phrase. Never have I seen herds of cattle so relaxed, basking in the warmth of the noon day sun…..casually munching on fresh green grass. Thankfully, I’ve benefited from great dairy and can attest to the fact that though the phrase sounds nice, these cows are far from that! Plus I don’t envy them the winters!I will miss the endless stretch of green in spring and summer even if dark clouds hovered. And the views, sculpted by white ice in winter.
An Assortment of Sweet Breakfast ToppingsFrom green we move to ‘sugar’. I must say that I am hard-pressed to find a competitor to stand against the Dutch when it comes to the wealth of bread toppings for a morning slice. Forget the savoury, cheesy ones. Or the spreads like 6 types of peanut butter, all manners of chocolate spread, jams, marmalades and even Speculoos, cookie paste from Belgium. There´s Kokosbrood, sheets of coconut, sweetened and flavoured / banana, rum and raisin, strawberry, all broodbeleg (bread fillings). Let´s focus on Hagelslag (Meaning ‘falling down hail’) – chocolate sprinkles similar to Hundreds and Thousands but different, in that the sprinkles are chocolaty (not sugary) and are great on bread. Mind you, butter it first otherwise you’ll have a sprinkled mess! Ice-cream, cakes and even warm milk (only for foreigners mind you, the Dutch are rather strict about its uses!) are the perfect camping grounds for this (sometimes) daily treat.It comes in various forms – chocolate, aniseed and sugar, none of which are overly sweet. But first, a brief history lesson on the aniseed variety. When children are born in the Netherlands, guests are served beschuit (twice-baked bread turned to toast), buttered…….and topped with muisjes (mice) – aniseed balls with tiny tails. When you have a boy, guests get blue, a girl – pink and when you’re born royal, the orange ones go on sale! In ancient times, aniseed was believed to stimulate breast milk production so nursing mothers were encouraged to have it. I got served 2 or 3 right after my son was born here and if you must know he was well-fed! While the chocolate ‘slag is soft, the aniseed balls (muisjes) have a crunchy outer coating. Both are equally delicious. You’ll also find sweet aniseed powder, multi-coloured sugar sprinkles, multi-coloured chocolate sprinkles, flakes and even sheets. Did I mention the chocolate variety comes in milk, pure (dark) and white? De Ruijter and Venz are the most popular brands. Personally I love them and when we move, we will be packing quite a few boxes. I find though that when we gift them to friends and family in the UK and Nigeria, they find it hard to ‘work’ with the notion of chocolate sprinkles on your bread. They don’t really get it – I must say it took me a few months to understand but now I’m sold! Beschuits can also be used as a remedy for an upset stomach. My Dutch colleague told me that all one had to do was spread some butter on the ‘toast’ and top it with granulated/caster sugar. The ‘victim’ gets carbs from the biscuit and some energy from the sugar. I’m yet to try that one out.
Hot Bar SnacksBorrel Hapjes are the Dutch equivalent of the British potato crisps and pork crackling, for bar snacks. Here in the Netherlands, a pub or bar visit will be rewarded (only when ordered) with a platter of steaming hot snacks (mostly, though sometimes pieces of cheese may also be included), consisting of 4 or 5 varieties.A borrel is:1. an informal designation for a small glass of spirits2. an informal social gathering of a select (invited) group, often with a theme (like a leaving do, promotion celebrations….) On the platter, one will find something for everyone. Bitterballen (beef croquette balls) for the meat lovers. Now these must be eaten with care as the internal temperature is set to HOT!!!! Many mouths have been burned in test cases. Often accompanied by little bowls of mustard.
Stuff Dutch People Like says ‘There are some important things to note; for instance, Dutch people consume borrel hapjes at borrels. Borrel hapjes consist of a limited selection ofFor the vegetarian, a Kaas soufflé will be to one side (or mixed amongst the other meaty delights – some Dutch vegetarians haven’t minded the ‘contamination’ I must say) – flat parcels of melted cheese (also deep-fried) in pastry. One could opt for mustard or sweet chili sauce.Vlaametjes (‘Little Flames’, hot chile bite of spring roll-like snacks, thin pastry and chillied beef,wrapped into little parcels and deep-fried), chicken wings and nuggets are also accompaniments.Thankfully, all the stores stock ‘home packs’, so for non-drinkers or in-frequent bar trips, making a home platter is not out of the question!And if you’re not at a bar and desperate for some, help yourself (for a small fee) to what you want from the vending machine!
deepdeeply fried snacks. Now of course, we all know that Dutch people love to slap a “tje” on to the end of words in a fond, lovingly sort of way. So a smallish borrel mixed with the right about of gezelligheid will soon become a borreltje. In the same vain, a Dutch person can be seen to also consume borrelnootjes at at this borreltje. Borrelnootjes aren’t just any kind of nut: they are deep fried nuts, especially for the occasion (yes, you read that correctly, deep. fried. nuts).’