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“If only I’d bought you a broom instead of wine”

 “If only I’d bought you a broom instead of wine”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

Professor Nanne de Vries shares a meal with student volleyball club Fyrfad

“It’s too moist”, says Denise Sitters. “Not at all”, replies Nanne de Vries, professor of Health Promotion. “Just say that’s how your apple crumble is supposed to be. I like it.” Meanwhile, Wannes van Lonkhuijzen is standing at the kitchen counter with a knife and the second round of apple crumble. He is trying to open the springform pan over the sink. After more than a small amount of prying, it works – and the crumble plops out into the water. That’s the end of dessert.
Sitters: “I see you don’t know how a springform works.”
Van Lonkhuijzen: “Luckily I’m a people person.”
De Vries: “Just wait till she goes on the attack.”
Van Lonkhuijzen: “I’ll put the knife away, just to be on the safe side.”
De Vries to the reporter: “Can I add another category to the stars? Missed opportunity: one portion of apple crumble. And two: Denise waiting till we’re gone to give Wannes a smack.”


When the professor arrives around six pm, it is remarkably quiet in the small kitchen at the Raadhuisstraat 1 in Heer. Two women are peeling apples for the dessert; the three men are busy with a dish of salmon, broccoli and potato. None seem to have time to make conversation with their guest.
“How am I supposed to dice the butter?” Sitters wonders aloud as she holds her sticky hands aloft. “Are you one of the medical students?” De Vries asks. Yes, she responds; second year. He chuckles knowingly. “Then you’ve not had a knife in your hands yet.”

“Volleyball players don’t usually fit in a student house”, De Vries remarks as he sizes up the Fyrfad members. “I’m a setter, they’re smaller”, Van Lonkhuijzen replies. He wipes down the kitchen table with a cloth. This is met with an approving nod: “That will give you an extra star for cleanliness.” Another star is notched up when the students mention cleaning the kitchen this afternoon. It was just too bad they didn’t have a broom, they say. “If only I’d brought you a broom instead of wine”, De Vries replies.
The wine De Vries is referring to – one bottle of red, one of white – disappears out of sight upon being presented to the hosts. De Vries makes a few allusions to it over the course of the evening, including when he laughs at the end of the dinner, “You’ll think of me again this weekend.”

What do you do, he asks Koen Vannisselroij, who places a glass of water in front of him (“first water, then wine”). “Psychology.” It’s not the professor’s first question, nor will it be his last. De Vries asks, and asks, and asks: about their studies, about volleyball, about the student house, about where they come from, and so on and so forth. “We have a lot in common; you’re all in a similar field to me”, he concludes. “I’m originally a psychologist [like Vannisselroij and Van Lonkhuijzen –Ed.) and now on the board of the FHML, where you study”, he says, nodding in the direction of Sitters, Caroline van de Starre and Ewoud Roelfs. “I even used to play volleyball. What a coincidence. I was a setter, I had to dash into the attacking zone from the back of the court. You had to be quick. At some point I couldn’t hit anymore. There was something wrong with my shoulder.” Vannisselroij can sympathise. “My left shoulder is always getting dislocated. It’s painful.” The professor’s question – “So do you just push it back in again?” – is met with a nod.

The food will be a little longer. “So are you all following this series in Observant?” De Vries asks cheerfully. They are not. “Oh.” The students busy themselves gathering cutlery and looking for wine glasses. “Would you like a glass of wine?” asks Van Lonkhuijzen. De Vries laughs heartily: “Well, now that you ask.” “Any preference?” the students want to know. “According to Albert Heijn our one goes well with the salmon.” “Well, let’s do yours then. I’ll just take mine home again.”

What made you decide to take part in this series? De Vries asks. “Koen asked if I want to have dinner. I thought, why not, I don’t have anything else to do”, Van Lonkhuijzen replies. “It seemed like a good idea”, says Vannisselroij. “And no, not just to drum up members – we already have waiting lists.”

The apple crumble, spread over an oven dish and a springform pan, arrives on the table. “What do you want to know about me, Caroline?” De Vries asks the youngest of the bunch. She smiles, somewhat shyly. Van Lonkhuijzen, pointing to the professor’s ear, takes the plunge: “So how old is that earring?” “I got it in 1987 from my then wife.” Seems like a “pretty risky” gift, Van Lonkhuijzen contends. It was fine, says De Vries, “she knew me well. It’s quite distinctive, wearing jewellery like this: either I’m the professor with the earring, or when I was younger guys would come up to me after lectures because they thought I was gay.” Does he have children? “A daughter of 28 with my ex. She’s a curator at the Voorlinden museum. And two sons with my current wife. My youngest is 17; he’s in his final year at school and plans to study electrical engineering. He wants to do something practical. The older one is 19 and becoming a professional soldier.” “What do you think of that?” asks Van der Starre, who has overcome her bashfulness. “Initially I thought it was a less than ideal choice and kept making jokes about it. Then my son said, Dad, I’ve found what I want to do you go and poke fun at it. That’s not nice. I thought that was a very mature response. Very good.”

As he leaves, the five ask if he will come and watch a game some time. Next week perhaps? No, De Vries replies; he’ll be in Tomsk, in Siberia. Some other time, though.


Nanne de Vries * 60 * vice dean of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences and professor of Health Promotion * married, one daughter, two sons

Denise Sitters * 19 * second-year medical student * member of student volleyball club Fyrfad

Caroline van der Starre * 18 * first-year health sciences student * member of Fyrfad

Koen Vannisselroij * 22 * third-year psychology student * vice president of Fyrfad

Ewoud Roelfs * 19 * second-year medical student * treasurer of Fyrfad

Wannes van Lonkhuijzen * 20 * third-year psychology student * member of Fyrfad 

Scores (maximum of five stars), given by Professor De Vries

Quality of food: 4 stars (“The combination of salmon, celeriac and broccoli was tasty, but it could have been a little hotter”)

Cleanliness: 5 stars

Hospitality: 4 stars (“I was glad someone asked about my earring. I was thinking, do I have to come up with yet another question?”)



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