Gevoel: ONTZAG, GEAMUSEERD EN WILLEN ALLE NEDERLANDERS EEN VUIST POMP TE GEVEN
(Translation: Feeling in Awe, Amused, and Wanting to Give all the Dutch a Fist Pump).
Ok, for once I’m not pulling your leg and this shall be a short(ish) post, all shot sockets (I.e., “bullet points”) of just why the Dutch are just the most absolute astute, adroit and ingenious in the world, as well as a few tale tellings that have totally tickled my taste.
- Cardboard Bottle Lids
- Mate, in NZ the Wortmans are partial to their cardboard-bottled custard (Deb does the whole chopped-banana-with-it-in-a-bowl every so often, and Opa has it each and every evening with his Greek yoghurt and “blood” – aka, blackcurrant cordial). But even our much ardoured Anchor – because it has to be Anchor, none of this Meadowfresh lark – is cursed completely when upon coming to the “end” of the bottle, the last quarter or so is unable to be poured out. Why? The blasted opening mate! The cardboard flaps at the front where the thick mix comes out, with the design not enabling easy access to the end. To get the last of the lot, one must actually make like a wave, rip it open and spoon.
- Do the Dutch do this? No they do not! Upon experiencing the same problem, the constructive creators well, created, a new screw top lid that allows absolute access to the very end. (Anchor, get on board).
- Just before Annelies was making some sort of mix and enquired of me, “Does your Opa cook dope in New Zealand?”. I looked at her nonplussed so she elaborated, “It’s a Wortman recipe”. While I tried to suss out if she was referring to buddying up and getting weedy with it, she showed me the saucepan of sauce. “It’s made from the water of the potatoes,” she said. Doop sauce, you see. (We had a good giggle at the thought of old Oma spotting out the green).
- In Great(est) Oom Frans and Tante Wyna’s home they have one of the fabbest contraptions I have ever come across: a wrap, base, cover and clean dispenser! It is a wooden widget on the wall where rolls of tin foil, paper towels, glad wrap and baking paper are placed and cut off with a little blade as need be. Ingenious!
- Yvette and I just got back from an hour-and-a-half fiets ride (sorry, bike) and it was oh so lovely (though my fingers are still fumbly from the coolish air). She’s totally come out of her carapace with me, and as we rode we yarned away and it was so special. (We stopped off at Jumbos – that’s UUM-bos, not JUUM-BOES – and the little lass Noa I convoed with a couple of days ago at the till came running after me asking if I could be her subject for her school assignment; she had to locate a person from an English-speaking country and thought of me and had hoped I would stop into the store. How sweet! We are meeting up later this week).
- Yvette took me to Noorden, the neighbouring village, and we rode alongside many a glasshouse and the constant canals. She told me lots, but two things I really took away; one, as we cycled and stared into all the homes commenting on which ones we liked that we were being “pottekiker” – sort of like peering in peekers. And second, that as everyone in Holland rides a bike, the way to distinguish between the serious cyclists and the standard from-A-to-B-ones is that the former are “wielrenners” with the latter being “fietsers”. (We discussed me coming back next year and made plans of her always coming to stay wherever I set up my dwelling – that is, if I son’t just reside with the van der Posts. Upon me saying my potential plans Annelies said they will extend the shed outside to be two-storey, or else add an extra floor above the girls’ rooms. Oh I love them so dearly). On the way home we stopped off at the ice-cream store to get some cones and what not for the family, with me all intrigued to see how we would take home the hoard; would you know it, the man serving up the scoops wrapped the lot up like Fish’n’Chips so we could bike it back. So solutional!
- While on Yvette; last night she dyed her hair and this afternoon Annelies was saying how she was unhappy with the resulting hue. “She wants to paint it again,” she said and I found it so beguiling – then I thought about it more, and it actually is painting your hair really, isn’t it?
- Garages are rather rare here, with people parking in the set out spaces outside the blocks of buildings instead. Even those abodes that you can see are fairly grand seldomly have space for storing their vehicles, and if so they are usually more of a car port type affair.
- I’ve said it before, but stroopwafels just go galore. (For those of you having forgotten, these are the biscuit-sort-of sweet treats that are pretty much two waffles joined together by syrup). (Though in the last few weeks I have actually come to realise that it is in fact one waffle sliced in half, and it can be bound with caramel syrup or honey as an alternative. And there are also stroopkoeken, being the same but cookies rather than waffles). And the other day at the markets there was a man making fresh ones right in front of me – it was so insightful to see!
- When entering a person’s home, going to remove your footwear is met with profuse insistence that you keep them on. You see, shoes are hardly ever taken off when visiting another abode – it is not considered customary – so the houses cater to this by having mats inbuilt into the floor right after the front door. So when you go inside, a thorough brush off and shimmy of your soles on the set-in mat is sufficient to allow them in with you.
- I loved it – this afternoon I was after a piece of paper and Annelies guided me to find it with the old “hot cold” clue-ins. (You know, when closer to the wanting-to-be-unearthed the one in the know shouts “hot!” and when moving away they shriek “cold!”). I was transported back to birthdays when our presents were hidden and Deb and Henio, the brothers Michael James and I would guide whichever one of us was in celebration to the hidey-holes of hauls. (I’m so going to reinstate this ritual come September 6). (My birthday for those of you not in the know. Take note).
- I’m sorry, but how fucking fab is this tea cup? (They also come in “coffee”). Because when you have a mug you want to clutch it for a palm cuddle, right? And upon first being poured this is impossible so you must make do with hanging your thumb and forefinger on the handle. Dutch solution? Have the actual beverage holder inserted inside an outer mug. And Bob’s our uncle! (Again, he actually isn’t – they separated Pop, when will you remember?).
- As I have mentioned before about the whole baby-being-born-hagelslag-muisjes tradition (coloured sprinkles on beschuit, recall?), births are big deals – evident even more so today upon visiting a baby store (like for clothes and bibs and shit, not actual infants) (SO hard to leave with only one purchase what with a little niece/nephew coming). There were baskets of chocolates embedded with the pink or blue muisjes, cards with picture of it on declaring congrats and the almost stapled streamers on offer at the back. I mean, you’d think what with all the people that a new arrival would be par for the course, but they just fizz for it here with quirky commemorations.
- When setting up for the Wortman family meet and greet (now deemed my Dutch birthday) (post to come) Richard rocked in with two “hang tafels” or “hang tables”. These are pretty much bar leaners that look like white cupcakes, which delighted me enough in itself. Then Sharon came down the stairs with two black cloths to don them up in – like actual slinky dresses that clung and covered the whole structure of each. I was absolutely in ardour.
- And in the name of all thing Dutch, a croquette machine I came across in Utrecht; like a drink or chocolate-and-chip machine, but with the crumb coated minced meat treat. You insert a coin, select your choice and out slides a steaming hot croquette! Magical.
- After getting home from our ride, Yvette and I settled down for a fair few games of Rummikub with Dennis and Sharon. If you don’t know Rummikub, you need to get on board (that would be a pun, but technical it’s not actually a board game – it’s tiles and stands and you put them on a table top). Opa has the deluxe set at home and I always used to play with him, though we haven’t for a good decade or so (that makes me sad). I was so excited upon arriving at my Holland home in Nieuwkoop to find they too had a smaller set, and that they actually played! So we went for a three rounder (Yvette took out two, Dennis one and I came second in each – still got it!) and I was so in my element – I have decided to instate games night at the Norfolk corner once a week when I get back and get back on board (again, I wish I could claim that as a pun but it isn’t so) to playing with Opa when I visit him also.
Next time Henio does his whole, “If you’re not Dutch you’re not much” declaration I’ll be sure to fist pump him. Because these people, their ways and their on point opuscules are fucking fantastic.