Let’s get down to the real talk. Let’s talk food. Food in The Netherlands, I mean.
Food is most definitely my favourite thing in life (not to exagerate), and I love trying local food anywhere I go. But I have one massive problem : I am intolerant to gluten. ‘Cus you know, I’m special.
Where do you find gluten, you ask ? Well, in bread, pizzas, pasta, cakes, cookies, biscuits, pies, quiches, even soya sauce, not to mention the full list. The HORROR.
The Dutch and gluten free food, a non-existent love story
Everything that is basically tasty (and also a lil’ bit bad for your health) is off my list, unless it is gluten free. That involves of course burgers, sandwiches, wraps, beer ; anything made with wheat, barley or spelt flour. But it’s ok. Most supermarkets sell the basic stuff for double or sometimes triple price than what the « normal » version would cost. Really, I am sorry for my body’s inacceptable behaviour !
Of course, it makes you the annoying one when invited to a dinner party ( I mean seriously, who doesn’t eat bread ? Ah yes, me).
But it is when I go out for food that it gets really tricky. The Dutch are very good with certain specific food diets, like vegetarian food. But when it comes to gluten free stuff, that is a whole different story. Mainly because there is such a thing as a European food allergy regulations that the Dutch have decided to simply ignore for the time being .
Fair enough, they have until December 2016 to change their menus in restaurants and cafes, and people with food allergies have been waiting for all those years already so where’s the rush, right?
It wouldn’t be fair to say that nobody makes an effort of course. Some national food chains are very friendly with every type of food allergies. Some local restaurants too, especially if you go to Amsterdam and all you want is a pizza.
But most of the time, you just have to know, guess or ask what you can eat, before even sitting at the table or making a reservation. Quite a waste of time for everybody really.
I have a confession to make
I cheat on gluten free food. There, I said it.
I do not eat bread, pizza, pasta or cakes, anything with a very solid base made of wheat flour. But I eat crumbs because, like I said, I am only intolerant, not allergic. And when you come to meet with some Dutch delicacies, you just have to make a decision : food or your stomach. I choose food.
Croquettes, bitterballen and kaassoufflé simply taste like heaven in my mouth. I cannot resist them.
I would love to share a picture with you, but my food never lasts long enough in my plate for me to photography it. Sorry.
Someone once told me « If it is Dutch food, then it is fried ». I do have to admit that a lot of Dutch specialties are fried indeed. But that’s what makes them so tasty, no ?
Amongst all of the Dutch food I have come accross since I live here, I’m gonna have to be honest and say that some look much nicer than others. I am up for trying a lot of different food, really, but you are not going to make me eat that raw herring with onions they put on bread and dare to call a delicacy. No way man.
Dutch people don’t seem to appreciate enough what is proper Dutch food. If you ask them, they’ll probably tell you « meat and potatoes ». Well, how exciting.
But the truth is elsewhere. Not in big or very elaborated meals, no. It’s all about what you gonna spread on that bread of yours !
Satay or curry sauce, butter topped with chocolate sprinkles, chicken in cream spread they call a salad, they seem to be just pleased with very little, and isn’t it nice to see ? That gives them plenty of time to do something else with their lunch break, and I think that’s just smart.
Someone said sweets ?
Now we’re getting down to it : the Dutch are probably the only people in the World that cherish liquorice so much ! Or chew on a liquorice stick at work. Or drink so much liquorice tea.
Thankfully for me, I love liquorice. But if you don’t, then I feel sorry for you, because it is almost in everything sweet they can possibly offer to you. Or salty, for a matter of fact. Watch out those lollies !
It looks like a normal lollipop, and if you were not in The Netherlands, you could even mistake the colour for a cola flavour. But of course, it is liquorice. Salty liquorice. And I wish I had a camera at the time to photograph the facial expression I must have put on when I realized that (« Has that lollipop gone bad ? »).
And when it’s not made with liquorice, there is a 90% chance that it will contain cinnamon. Because, what else could you possibly use?
There is something really old fashioned and traditional about those sweets that I like. It reminds me of the sweets my grandparents used to give me when I was a child. Some kind of old-school flavour that is not for everyone but that I do enjoy a lot.
Of course, I could go on for ages about all the other food and recipes the Dutch have in their cooking books, or about Indonesian food. But let’s be honest, that’s not what the locals eat everyday. It would be like saying every French person eat frog legs once a week (which I have never tried in my life actually!).
Some Dutch woman told me once « We are good at a lot of things, but food is not one of them ».
Well, lady, I tried your cheese, your croquettes, your kaassoufflés, your sweets and, back in the days, your stroopwafels and your poffertjes. Maybe you were high, but I don’t know what the hell you were talking about. Herring, maybe.
Want to read more about how I really feel about Holland? Check my post on what it is like to live in The Netherlands when you don’t speak Dutch!