There are so many things we have come to love about Dutch culture–and food! Aaandd, maybe a few things we won’t miss too much as well. Here are a few of our latest favorites:
Usually when I first explain vla to someone, the conversation goes like this:
Me: “Have you tried vla yet?”
Person #2: “Blah? What’s that? Sounds weird.”
Understandable, for sure. And in reality, vla is, well, pretty much as “blah” as you make it. It’s essentially a mild custard of a yogurt-like consistency. The most common flavors are chocolate and vanilla, but there actually are a whole lot more.
By itself, it’s actually not something that stands out of the crowd. We’ve learned that you can really put all sorts of crazy things on top of it though–including lemonade concentrate, fruit, chocolate or caramel syrup, and previously mentioned hagelslag. I’m not sure exactly what is a traditional “Dutch” way to eat it, and what is simply what people around us have decided tastes good. I have to say that, when matched with chocolate syrup and bananas, it definitely started to grow on me.
2. Cats. Everywhere.
One unfortunate aspect of having canals everywhere in your city is the prevalence of rodents. Or so we’ve been told. To remedy this, nearly every building in Amsterdam seems to have at least one cat slinking around. Cafes, clothing stores, homes–you name it, they’ve likely got one. Which means we have all sorts of fun and humorous encounters with furry fellows like these:
3. French fries count as a meal here.
Did we mention they eat them with mayo and curry sauce? Other options generally include garlic and some kind of soy/peanut sauce–along with the less popular ketchup and mustard.
4. Open air markets every weekend, and beyond.
I’m pretty sure with a little bit of strategy we could avoid entering a store for the rest of our lives here. Deodorant, makeup, clothing, socks, household gadgets, all kinds of food and accessories imaginable, fresh flowers, lingerie…well you get the picture.
Now for a couple of items that will never make it on this list:
1. Pickled herring.
We tried it to have the real Netherlands experience. We wanted to like it, we really did. Sadly…no.
2. Salted (sugarless) licorice.
The Netherlands is known for having really good licorice. I happen to love black licorice, so I was eager to finally try some. The first moral of the story, however, is that there is a time and place to stop your mad rush through the grocery store and actually use Google Translate once in a while. Then, maybe I would have ended up with “sweet and soft” licorice instead (which has actually turned out to be delicious). I have concluded that I will never acquire a taste for salted licorice–and that from now on I will always translate, at least when it comes to important things like candy.
I’ll wrap this up letting you know there’s a whole lot more going on here than just eating and shopping. 🙂 More thoughts to come–and hopefully soon!