Jan. 21st, 2009

jacktellslies: (geroges barbier mermaid)
When living in the Netherlands, I was regularly unable to tell whether my Dutch friends were behaving in a way that was typical to the country, or instead merely a cultural attribute of people who do a lot of yoga and eat organic foods. All of my Dutch friends moved in that same social circle, so I had no way to judge the difference.

There are, admittedly, a lot of that type living in and around Amsterdam. And I'm aware that Holland is culturally rather different from the rest of the Netherlands. Still.

Once Flora told me a story about my roommate Dagmar, the beautiful German dancer. Dagmar had said something about tea made from fresh sprigs of whole mint being the Dutch national drink, and Flora laughed and laughed, explaining that, no, it's Moroccan. I blushed and laughed with her: I'd thought it was a Dutch custom as well! We were both right, after a fashion. It's available in every restaurant and every house in Amsterdam. It's more Dutch than the clogs and other cheap symbols still in use only to sell souvenirs to tourists.

Another food that will always, perhaps inaccurately, stand for the Netherlands in my mind is the large tub of plain yogurt. Most humans add some extra texture or flavour to their yogurt, but the Dutch treat it as a vehicle for experimentation. For either breakfast or desert we'd all join at a table on which we'd collect the available options. Anything we could find in the house that might possibly taste good with yogurt would be gathered: bananas, apples, raisins and currants, all available forms of granola, nuts, flavoured maple syrup, honey, and brown sugar were all options, but there were others as well. Bowls and spoons would be distributed, and we'd set to work, concocting something interesting and tasty. The yogurt was meant to evolve as it was consumed. Midway through, one might decide that it also required dried cranberries and walnuts. It was always a fun experience as well as a good snack.

I've been making my breakfast in this manner recently, and it makes me smile every time. I suspect that there is more of the organic market than the Dutch in it, but it still makes me feel as if I'll wander out my front door to the sound of bicycle bells, that I'll soon find a canal to stroll.

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jacktellslies

August 2009

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