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Typical NL: fatty herring

What is the most typically Dutch food of all? Some would say friet, but Belgians would certainly object. The question who was first and more importantly who makes the best will never be answered. My favourite frituur developed a compromise: it uses Belgian potatoes, Dutch oil and for the mayonnaise you can choose between Belgian, Dutch or German. Isn't Europe wonderful?

Fried kroketten, frikandellen, and all these other pressed meats which I can’t really tell apart are certainly Dutch. One thing I learned in the Netherlands is that there is no better preventive measure against a headache after a night of extended borrel than a kaassoufflé late at night (or rather early in the morning) before going to bed. The masses of fat seem to mystically remove all the alcohol from your blood and after a long and heavy sleep you will awake ship shape and shiny. This could also be why automatieken are so popular in the Netherlands. You don't need to be sober, just able to drop some coins into the automaat and get your food from the wall.

Other European countries embrace the deep-fryer even more than the Dutch. The Scots, for example, are infamous for indulging in deep-fried Mars or Snickers bars; rumour has it that some people up there even deep fry frozen pizza. And even though hot food from the wall is still rather uncommon in the rest of Europe, that might be about to change. There are places in Italy nowadays where you can get freshly baked pizza from a vending machine, which strikes me as even weirder than the Dutch slot-snackbars.

No, the most typical food of the Dutch is certainly the maatjes, the typical Dutch herring. Sure, the herring is known in other countries as well, but the Dutch have their own way with it. Maatjesharing or Hollandse Nieuwe is an especially mild and fatty version of herring and is produced by a special method which was developed in the Netherlands as early as the 14th century. The strange part, however, is the Dutch way of eating the fish. Typically served with fresh onions, they take the fish by its greasy tail, throw back their head, and let it slide into their mouth in one big gulp. It's a unique sight. I can only assume that every Dutch person perfects this method from early childhood on, and I wonder whether it might even be part of the inburgeringscursus.

Hollandse Nieuwe has its season (just like a vegetable!). If you want to give it a try, now is the time.


Tim Aretz



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