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My Favourite Things – ‘Dutch’ Special

by on July 9, 2011
 

Holland, my sweet Holland

Soon I shall see you no more

How is it that time so quickly goes by?

And now I return

To Nigeria, my beloved Homeland

Poffertjes

It’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!

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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.

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An Assortment of Sweet Breakfast Toppings

From 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).

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From left to right: blue & white muisjes;  pink & brown milk hagelslag; gestampte muisjes – crushed sugared aniseed powder and dark brown (dark chocolate) hagelslag

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.

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An Assortment of breakfast goodies, 2008

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…

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….and topped with muisjes (mice) – aniseed balls with tiny tails.

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Spot the mouse’s tail?

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!

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Can you see the aniseed seeds? Look hard in the blue & white portion!

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!

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See the seeds now?

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 Snacks

Borrel 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.

Borrel hapjes

A borrel is:

1. an informal designation for a small glass of spirits

2. an informal social gathering of a select (invited) group, often with a theme (like a leaving do, promotion celebrations….)

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I love the reflections of people in the wine

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.

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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 of deep deeply 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).’

For 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.

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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!

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Windmills

I love the colour windmills lend to the landscape, as well as the cows. Not to mention that they are great tourist attractions and were the precursor to sustainable electricity! Smart eh?

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Cheese

The Netherlands is arguably one of the best places…in the world to come for cheese. Close to where I live is Leiden, a city that lends its name to my favourite cheese ever in this world – Leidse kaas, essentially milk cheese studded with cumin seeds.

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Cheese is CELEBRATED in the Netherlands with summer cheese markets, perfect for tourists and expats. A few years ago, we visited the Cheese market at Alkmaar, which happens in the city’s main square every Friday at 10 a.m., from early April to early September.

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It was an excellent trip. The square is full of hundreds and thousands of cheese rounds, with porters, Dutch maiden (handing out flyers for the Cheese museum and being willing photo props) and inspectors moving back and forth, trying the cheese, selling it and all the rest.

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The streets around the square are lined with vendors, purveyors of all things kaas and overlooking the square is a a fine cheese museum, providing spectacular views of the square below and also sharing the evolution of the Dutch cheese industry.

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We had so much fun and learnt so much. Read more about it here.

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Gorgeous Dutch Maiden bedecked in red, white and blue

 Pancakes

There’s no way I could forget pancakes, an institution in the Netherlands. ‘Pannenkoeken’ (literal translation – pan cakes/cookies) are as Dutch as windmills. Cows and cheese. Though I loved pancakes before we moved here that has blossomed into deep romance, and now not so much with me but with my family. Every week, I make a batch or two and we make crepes, pancakes and poffertjes (small Dutch pancakes) out of the mix and have them with bacon, bananas, lemon juice, sugar, cream, strawberries, yogurt, creme fraiche. An endless list really.

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Pancakes with apples and bacon. Optional butter :-)

We’ve been to pancakes houses where they serve them, large as a wheel in such variety, one has difficulties choosing!

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Pancakes and bacon, with icing sugar and butter!

Good Friends and Neighbours

Living in an expatriate community, I have been BLESSED by so many wonderful friends and neighbours. From Dutch to English, Chinese, Italian and Indian. Not only have we spent time in friendship but I have been blessed with more than one wonderful meal.

Zóng zi, Steamed rice and dates wrapped in Banana leaves and eaten with sugar, from my Chinese neighbour, S; These are often made in memory of  Qu Yuan (340-278 BC.), the pioneer poet of ancient China.

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Melanzane alla Parmigiana from F, my Italian friend – delicious aubergines and cheese in a tomato sauce;

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And Indian Kulfi (including the moulds which I get to keep!) and Falooda from my South Indian neighbour, S, who just started a blog, Dosaikal,! I made a ‘float’, and enjoyed it!

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A wonderful gift of a convertible ride, I was much too scared to drive it like I originally planned (bucket list #54)….

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…And a walk in the dunes (bucket list #46), all thanks to my wonderful American friend, A.

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I could go on and on and on. Though I return home to the warmth and love of friends of old, I take with me great memories of my new ones. They will be sorely missed!

Orange. Orange. Orange.

And finally, Orange. A colour that has found its way into my heart and eyes, binding all my memories of the Netherlands. Flowers. Clogs. Tea. All coloured in a mix of fire and royalty.

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In a few weeks, things will change and I’ll be back in the sweltering heat of Nigeria. I’m so looking forward to being home again, to sharing the colours and the flavours of my birth land. To showing you markets, sea fronts (maybe) and street food and traditional Nigerian recipes. Thank you for being a part of my ‘Dutch’ experience.

Love you too ♥.

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comments
 
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  • JC
    December 15, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    In a posting, you helped me to understand what is Dutch. I love your writing and photographs. Would love to return often to savour your blog!

    Reply

  • Corine
    October 24, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    Accros the internet I stumbeld upon your blog.
    I happen to work at Dille en Kamille in Rotterdam (yes, I’m Dutch), and I love your warm and kind desciption of the Netherlands, thank you for sharing.

    Met vriendelijke groeten (kind regards),
    Corine

    Reply

  • August 27, 2011 at 4:12 AM

    OZ. Tears are running down my face. I am so sad for you. Saying good bye and honouring the change to come is so deeply moving. I learned so much from reading this post. We have only been to Amsterdam twice, and about a whole week when put together – and then only driven through the country side… yet got a real sense of the lovely life there. Your farewell is not lost on me. I know you can come back one day. And I know a wonderful new adventure awaits… but saying good bye is just hard. Engraving the sights and smells and sounds into one’s memory is not easy. I look forward to learning of more wonders as you see your homeland through new eyes.
    XO
    Valerie

    Reply

  • Susan
    July 17, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    I just came across your blog today… I loved it, gave me a good laugh. I go to the Netherlands regularly, with my Dutch husband and you have described some of the endearing quirky things in the Dutch culture very well. You made us laugh, thank you. My favorite little gems of the Netherlands is Amersfoort and how could I forget stroopwafels!! Safe travels

    Reply

  • July 17, 2011 at 6:53 AM

    You are fortunate to have had this lovely time in such a great place. I look forward to your continued blog adventure in your homeland

    Reply

  • July 16, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    I must visit soon, I don’t know why I haven’t been over yet. I wish you all the best with your journey home, and look forward to your posts from your homeland. xx

    Reply

  • July 15, 2011 at 11:43 PM

    Thank you ALL for your wonderful comments. I will miss being int he Netherlands but am glad for great readers who are interested in continuing this journey with me!

    We’ve been here for 4 years, because I came on ‘transfer’, with work. Now I return to a job back home in Nigeria, with the same company…..doing the same sort of geology work I left!

    Thank you…

    Reply

  • Jeannine
    July 15, 2011 at 2:58 AM

    I spent 6 amazing years in the Netherlands and this made me nostalgic. I fondly remember having beschuit met muisjes after the birth of my first daughter. It was a magical place and a magical time for me. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply

  • July 14, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    I didn’t realize you lived so close to Leiden, my favorite town in Holland! It’s bittersweet moving, can’t wait to follow you from Nigeria.

    Reply

  • July 14, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    Can’t wait to see your adventures in Nigeria. But can I just say that all of your pictures and experiences in Holland sound magical!!

    Reply

  • Kelsey
    July 14, 2011 at 4:08 AM

    I can’t wait to read, practically feel and taste, all of the flavors and colors of Nigeria. I love your blog and I hope I get to visit Nigeria sometime soon…

    Reply

  • Carole
    July 13, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    Thanks for this lovely post! I can’t wait to hear all about your new adventures in Nigeria…very exciting! Good luck!

    Reply

  • reineke
    July 12, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    Hi Oz,
    I still love reading your blog since I met you. I wish you a very good time back in Nigeria and I can’t wait for some Nigerian recepies! Have a good journey.

    Reply

  • July 12, 2011 at 2:19 AM

    So sad! Were you there on a work contract? I love the Dutch pannekoek (sp?) They are so good. This will open a new chapter in your blog.

    Reply

  • Krista
    July 11, 2011 at 10:47 PM

    I love this post, dear Ozoz, and am going to linger over it once I get to Amsterdam. Then I want to try some of the things you mentioned. :-) Can’t wait to see you! Hopefully next week. :-) xo

    Reply

  • July 11, 2011 at 10:41 PM

    I’ve loved exploring the Netherlands through your blog, dearheart, thank you for sharing it with us. I do think the Sinterklaas tales, and the poffertjes, and the hordes of people diving into the cold sea, and the many many photos of Orange were just some of my favourite things. It’s been wonderful, and now I’m looking forward to learning all about Nigeria! Have a safe trip home!

    Reply

  • July 11, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    Oz, what a lovely tribute to Holland – a country that I know very little about, really. Although I adore poffertjes and am pretty sure I could get used to chocolate sprinkles on my bread for breakfast!

    Reply

  • July 11, 2011 at 3:16 AM

    Safe and pleasant travels Oz. I cannot wait to follow what you are up to when you return to Nigeria. You have blessed us with such a unique and wonderful perspective of all things Dutch.

    Reply

  • July 11, 2011 at 1:57 AM

    What a wonderful post, I love your fav things, although feel for you having to move… Bring on the posts from Nigeria sweet Oz, safe travels. Xxx

    Reply

  • July 10, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    Lovely post, I still want to visit Holland and you’ve shown me so much to look out for. Can’t wait for all the stuff you’re going to show us from Nigeria.

    Reply

  • July 10, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Good luck with the move. I miss the skies of Europe when I’m in the Middle East. So much I didn’t know about Holland here.

    Reply

  • July 10, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    A most fantastic post! I can almost feel how much you will miss everything and how much you are looking forward to familiar places and people of your birth. I loved reading this post and look forward to hearing about Nigeria.

    Reply

  • Alysha Ford
    July 10, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    The Hardest thing about moving is leaving all the great friends behind. Safe travels and wishes of a smooth repatriation. Can’t wait to learn all about your Nigerian homeland. Keep bloggin!

    Reply

  • July 10, 2011 at 3:57 AM

    Oz this was such a wonderful post. I loved learning of how the Dutch live in Holland as to where I grew up in west Michigan and my heritage is Dutch I have never been to the Netherlands. My cousin works for KLM and has a chance to live in Amsterdam and having the last name of Bouwman (my maiden name) he was welcomed as a Dutchman and has the chance to experience it first hand like you have. I have yet to visit where my family has come from and really have enjoyed your take on the country that you have lived for 4 years. I will follow you where ever you go, because it is such a pleasure to know you and see life though your eyes!

    Reply

  • July 10, 2011 at 2:34 AM

    Wow! What a big change that is coming! I loved seeing all the things that you loved about this previous stage in your life. Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing your creative self with me today. I hope you are having a happy weekend. Mine just got a bit brighter. Hugs and love from Austin!

    Reply

  • mademoiselle délicieuse
    July 10, 2011 at 2:04 AM

    Looking forward to hearing about the adventures in the next phase of your life. It’s all very exciting, I’m sure, to be leaving something now familiar to be returning to something familiar as well.

    Reply

  • margo ayotte
    July 9, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    I have so enjoyed receiving your posts in my inbox and wish you only good things as you travel home, thanks for taking us fans along on your journey, looking forward to your posts from Nigeria.

    cheers margo on vancouver island

    Reply

  • July 9, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    Oh Oz this was a beautiful post…you brought tears to my eyes…I wish you and your family smooth sailing and I can’t wait for you new creations, learning about your country and sharing your life through your writing.

    Un abrazo! (A big hug)
    Norma

    Reply

  • July 9, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    What a lovely post Oz! Best wishes to you and your family for a smooth transition and I look forward to what you’ll bring to these pages from Nigeria.

    Reply

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