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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Tag Archives: Holland

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Mixed with cream, baked in butter…

It is funny how most nationalities really believe in their national specialities. 
In Holland we are proud of many things, we have the best cheese (conveniently forgetting the French and English varieties) best football (not sure about Brazilians though…) and best beer (hmmm Trappist monks will probably not agree)… 

One of the things I always thought the Dutch to really be the masters of, is Pancakes…
(best made with cream and water instead of milk, as the milk will make them rubbery instead of crispy…)

Where else do you find restaurants dedicated to this flipped floppy disk?

Today however I learnt that the English really have one up on the Dutch, by dedicating a special day to eating pancakes…

Shrove Tuesday

For the sake of my Dutch friends I will try to explain. 
It is the last day before lent, where people finish up all the rich ingredients they have left in the pantry before fasting for 40 days. 

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Carnival… festival of dropping meat?

Sounds plain and simple, but why then do the English keep their pancakes so simple?! Simply served with sugar and lemon juice, or in some extravagant cases Rhum.
Surely they should be able to come up with something more vice riddled? 
I was surprised that no one here had ever tried a bacon pancake with syrup… I’d say that is pretty rich, while even incorporating it with the Catholic meat referenced in Carnival….

It made me think about what I would give up for lent. In other words, what I would put on my pancake as a farewell for 40 days… 
But I couldn’t come up with anything, as at the moment I am living a rather moderate lifestyle. Most of the food is locally sourced, no biscuits, no chocolate, no smoking… There’s an occasional glass of wine with dinner. And a small piece of cheese after…

I don’t drink or eat enough of anything to worrying about giving it up. 
The only two possible items I would worry about are Tea and Butter
But tell me honestly… is there really life without either of those two? 

How will I cook without butter? 
I could try giving up tea and replacing it with herbal infusions? 
Would my niece and nephews start calling me Aunt Woopsie Tea instead?!

Hmmm. 

Thank God I just found out it will be next week instead of today… So I have a week to think about it.

So, what habits will you break, and what will you give up for lent?

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Pompom showdown...

Pompom showdown…

This post is for everyone who will receive a hand-knitted sweater from an aunt or granny this Christmas.

Please remember there is love and care in every stitch.
(however hideous the design might be….)

Loes Veenstra from a quiet street in Rotterdam has knitted over 500 jumpers since she started in 1955.
In this video the people from her  neighbourhood showcase all her hard work, by wearing her sweaters that had never been worn before…

Only in Holland!

In a way it is sad this craft and tradition is slowly disappearing…

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Today I realised the deep rooted ambition of every Dutch country girl…

Well heeled…

I got a pair of clogs.

 

And in case you were wondering…
Yes. They are comfortable, very lightweight and strangely keep my feet extremely warm without getting sweaty.
They are available at the Boerenbond. (Farmers union), where they are sold as work wear. Apparently they are according to working safety regulations… And it is nice to support the clog craftsmen…

So I dare anyone who wears crocs in their garden to try this.
Plastic really ain’t all that fantastic…

Can’t wait to take them for a spin in the UK… 🙂

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It is rare that expatriated Dutch people long to come back to their ‘little cold frog country’. (NL: Ons koude kikker landje).

But a picture like this surely brings up Dutch patriotic pride and homesickness:

Skating into the sunset...

On the other hand I only have bad memories of being on the ice.
Gargantuan blisters in my skates, bruises a-go-go… and all my friends disappearing in the distance, while I fall yet again on the cracks…
No, alas. I fear I will just enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of it, seated next to the fireplace…

Making the cold bearable...

PS. Sadly the epic skating tour along 11 Friesian towns (NL: Elfstedentocht) has been cancelled. The ice was not thick enough after 11 days of frost… Pity of all those extra gallons of Beerenburg they had distilled beforehand, just in case…
Better luck next year, hic!

PPS. On a happy note, may be my tulip bulbs will make it through to spring after all!

Oh, I love Holland!

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My American alter ego...

Yesterday I found a great blog, writing about the weird country I am from. It is quite funny to find someone else’s collection of thoughts on Dutch idiosyncrasies.

Enjoy: http://stuffdutchpeoplelike.com/

(I have to admit that their review on No.3 Hagelslag is much more thorough than mine…)
You live, you learn…

 

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Yesterday I attended several lectures on Historical interiors and restoration at the University of Amsterdam. (It was actually the leaving colloquium for Prof. Anne van Grevenstein.)

It was an interesting day with some interesting people sharing their knowledge and experiences.
But let’s not get me started on this, that would take forever…

On the way back to the station I walked through the red light district and saw the following sight opposite the Casa Rosso theatre:

No no, I was just swanning around to see the architecture...

And I thought swans were considered monogamous?!

On second thought I shouldn’t be surprised… Right Leda?

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Trustworthy and straight forward?

But oh so yummy.

Eels, Aaltjes, Paling, Zee aal, Anguilla, Anguille, IJselmeerder aaltjes, whatever you call it, I mean the kind of fish that has a simple beginning and end and a world of straight taste down the middle.

I still remember the day I was served this delicacy for the first time at ‘de borrel’ in my grandparents house.
On a slightly burnt slice of toast, with a sliver of cold butter (no need to go into this now) and with two thin smoked strips of taste…

Before the taste I mostly remember the smell of fire, fishy water and everything inbetween at the same time.
Still I was to learn that the taste would take me even further. Even the smallest piece exudes a greasy and earthy goodness filling your whole mouth.

Last weekend I had the great pleasure to be reintroduced when a friend and I visited the Noordermarket in Amsterdam and found an old fisherman selling freshly smoked ‘IJsselmeerder aal’. He left the bag open, as they were still cooling off from the smoking the night before.

Smokin'!

Peeling an eel is simpler than you might think.
Even if there are many proverbs in Dutch (and English) for that matter referring to the slipperiness of the nature of this fish.
I assure you there is no need not to trust his character.
As long as you let him lose its head, he easily disrobes, like a banana…
(a whole different world of proverbs comes to mind)
After you peel off the skin, simply remove the backbone, scrape off any oily residue (if you are a purist, but I prefer the whole thing) chop to bits and serve on toast or salad (as long as you use a ‘too white tablecloth’ to wipe your fingers on…)
You can think of adding mayonaise, but quite frankly I don’t see the point…

Enjoy.

Regretfully Eels have been an endangered species, since their numbers declined after overfishing in 2009. So they are getting harder to come by…
So in case you have no eels at hand, may be this song will give you the same sensation:

Second verse:
Dans le port d`Amsterdam
Y a des marins qui mangent
Sur des nappes trop blanches
Des poissons ruisselants
Ils vous montrent des dents
A croquer la fortune
A décroisser la lune
A bouffer des haubans
Et ça sent la morue
Jusque dans le coeur des frites
Que leurs grosses mains invitent
A revenir en plus
Puis se lèvent en riant
Dans un bruit de tempête
Referment leur braguette
Et sortent en rotant

(feel free to use Google Translate in case you need help: http://translate.google.com/)
Jacques knew what he was talking about…

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