Every year in August, loads and loads of new students arrive in Groningen. And every year, the amount of international students that are part of this crowd increases. This means it might be cool to get to know these internationals a little better and “Typically Dutch” is the way to do that. This month’s topic is “Dutch Food.” So prepare, because you’re going to be introduced to some “freaky shit” – at least, according to Oscar.
Let’s first introduce the three lovely students who took the heavy burden of inspecting the edibleness of Dutch foods upon them: Oscar, Margherita and Vivian. Oscar is a charming nineteen-year-old fellow from Birmingham, has been studying Artificial Intelligence at the University of Groningen for one year now and is ready to go taste all this bostin’ fittle! (apparently this is what people from Birmingham say when they mean ‘good food’) Margherita is a delightful young lady who is from Italy and has just started her second year as a student of English Language and Culture at the UG. She is twenty-one years old and has been very busy learning Dutch during the last nine months, which is very rewarding because she now knows how to order a “frikadel” fluently. Then there’s Vivian, a passionate young girl from Malaysia who has a Chinese family, and whose enthusiasm is highly contagious. She has, like Margherita, just started her second year, but of the study International Relations at the UG. Oh, and she doesn’t like spicy food.
Okay, now that everyone’s been properly introduced, let’s focus on the food. We started with ‘bitterballen.’ You probably know them: those crispy little balls filled with hot, delicious meat. At least, that’s my opinion. Let’s see what our internationals thought!
Oscar: “oh, this is great to eat after a night of going out. We don’t have this kind of stuff in Britain. We do have mustard, but it’s spicier than here.”
Margherita: “I love them! But in Italy we actually never use mustard, so that’s new.”
Vivian: “In Malaysia, people don’t even know what mustard is.”
The bitterballen were gone before you could say “mustard,” so these obviously were approved by our fearless internationals.
Next course: haring. Haring is a fish, and if you get the fresh ones – which I did – they are raw. Often served with onions. Let’s see how they were received!
Margherita: “I’ve been afraid to taste this for the entire year that I lived here. But now is the moment…”
Oscar: “Slimy, but satisfying.” (this quote seems oddly familiar…)
Vivian: “This is amazing! It’s very fishy, but I like that, because I used to eat a lot of fish at home too.”
Margherita: (after trying a tiny bit) “It’s unexpectedly good. Although it is a lot better with onions because it takes away a bit of the fishy taste.”
So, the haring was “okay.” They didn’t hate it, but accept for Vivian, nobody loved it either. Oscar added: “I just feel like fish would be better if it was cooked. I mean, why would you do this.”
Beschuit met muisjes
The next thing that I wanted to hand out was “drop,” which is Dutch liquorice. But as soon as I put the drop on the table, everyone started protesting immediately. It was chaos, I mostly heard things like: “Oh no no no no,” and “that’s not food, that’s a lie!” Thus I had no other option than to skip ahead to the next food, namely… beschuit met muisjes! Beschuit is a sort of combination of a cracker and toast, and muisjes are little round balls that you sprinkle on top of your beschuit. I told them that we Dutchies eat them when babies are born: there are blue muisjes and pink muisjes.
Vivian: “Oh, I don’t like this, it tastes like drop. I liked fishy better, fishy for the win!”
Margherita: “I don’t love it, but I could handle it if a baby was born.”
When I asked them if they have a particular food they eat when a baby is born, I heard some interesting stories. Margherita told me that they have these little chocolates called “confetti” in Italy. Like muisjes, they come in pink and blue, and depending on the sex of the baby you send either one to everyone you know with the mail. Vivian explained how in China, people hand out red painted eggs, during what they call “a full moon party.” It has this name because it is believed that the mother is really weak after giving birth and must rest for a month before having a party.
The next thing on the menu was “advocaat.” It is a sort-of-liquid that’s most popular with older people. It’s made of eggs and has some alcohol in it.
Oscar: “Oh that’s just weird. And more bitter than I expected, it’s a bit like bitter custard actually.”
Vivian: “Hmmm, no, this is not really my thing. A bit too strong for my liking.”
Margherita: “I expected vanilla, but then… no. It heats you up though.”
When I asked if they had something similar at home, Vivian simply said: “Asians eat rice all day.”
We’ve arrived at the last experiment: “appelmoes.” It’s basically mushed apples with sugar. How do they like it?
Margherita: “We have something similar, but it’s only for babies.”
Vivian: “Oh, I had this in Switzerland once! With pasta and cheese.”
So now that all the food that I brought today has been tasted, what is the overall opinion on Dutch food?
Oscar: “It’s weird.”
Vivian: “Yeah, but you English people are just not very brave with food. Oh, and I LOVED the Haring.”
Margherita: “I love frikadellen.”
By Robin van Gammeren