You must remember this...

>> Monday, 31 March 2008

We've been in Holland for the weekend, catching up with family and friends. Now, there are a number of things I fully expect to happen when we visit the Netherlands.

Firstly, I expect to eat twice my own body weight in unidentifiable fried brown stuff. In my limited experience, the Dutch do fried snack food better than anyone else - with the exception, perhaps, of the Indonesians. But that's OK because, having appropriated Indonesia as a colony back in the 17th / 18th Century (right through until after World War II), they then took the next logical step and appropriated their cuisine as well. The Dutch found Indonesian food so delicious that they were unable to choose between the various dishes, so in a typically Dutch fashion, they found a very practical solution. Why choose at all? Why not have all your favourites on the table at the same time, and call the resultant meal a 'Rijstafel' (no prizes for guessing that means 'Rice Table' in English).

But even without all the yummy spicy stuff, the Netherlands could hold their own in a 'How to use up every conceivable part of a pig / cow / sheep by wrapping it in a potato / batter / bread covering and tossing it in a deep fat fryer until it resembles something you really shouldn't touch with a barge pole but then you do and oh, god, it's good' competition.

What else do I expect? I expect to have the pants scared off me when driving on their motorways. The Netherlands is not a big country, you understand. And they don't have that big a population (around 15 million, I think). But boy, do they like their cars. (To be fair, they also have a pretty good public transport system, and in addition about a zillion bicycles that they actually use, which is why they can eat the afore-mentioned fried snacks with impunity and not put on an ounce, blast them). But - probably due to what not long ago seemed an inexhaustible supply of oil - they have a love affair with their cars. Now, we're not talking flashy 4 x 4's here - though I must say that there are more of those every time I visit - because it's not traditionally Dutch to flash your cash, but even so, they drive what they have like race cars once they hit the highway.

Perhaps it's because there's not much space, but the motorways are always busy, and often filled to the brim with traffic jams. The result? Well, it's my experience (and apologies to any Dutch readers who are blameless in this respect, Sweet Irene), that a large number of people have given up taking the jams seriously and simply treat the whole driving thing rather like an arcade game. They switch lanes without hesitation; once that indicator light is flashing, anyone in their way better get the hell out of it because hey, like it or not, they're coming through. Never mind if the gap is only 2 meters long - it's a gap, isn't it?

I knew about this - but yesterday was so freaked out whilst on the A12 to Utrecht that I had a fit of most unseemly feminine vapours, and had to pull off the motorway to let my big Dutch husband finish the journey. Most disappointing of me, I know.

Oh yes, and I expect Rain. With a capital 'R'. When the sun shines in Holland there's nothing to beat it (apart from England, of course), and on Saturday it did just that. The sky was blue, the sea air crisp and bracing, and the hot chocolate in the cafe on the beach topped with sweetened cream. Who could ask for more? Certainly not the Boys, who ran around with their cousins shrieking in the stiff breeze, chasing bouncy balls and sliding down sand dunes like children from a 1950's postcard. But other than that? Well, when it rains in the Netherlands, it doesn't mess about. And it rains a lot. A LOT. (This is something of which we have yet to convince our friends over there, who react to news of good weather in South East England with an incredulity which would be a little insulting if we didn't know it masked their envy...).

So, fried stuff. Traffic jams and crazy driving. Rubbish weather. I expect all that. But what I did not expect, sitting at a friend's house yesterday afternoon, was to be hit by a blast of nostalgia from my 1970's/80's childhood.

Did your mother - or you - ever get involved with Herman? Before you start picturing big beefy German types with blond hair and rippling muscles (always vastly over-rated, muscles, in my limited experience), I'm talking about - wait for it - a cake. A Friendship Cake, to be precise, which my mother used to make. And there it was, in our friend's fridge, with the instructions for use stuck on the front in what I swear is the same type-font that was used in the instructions my mum had stuck to our fridge around 30 years ago.

In case you never heard of this, Herman is basically a yeast-based cake that you create from a starter portion of gloop given to you by - you guessed it - a friend. You then added to the gloop, fed it, parcelled up a few tupperware boxes for other friends, and used the remainder to make your own cake. What a nice idea, hey?

Except of course, when I got home this evening and called my mother with the news that Herman is not dead but alive and well and living in the province of Utrecht, she said "Gosh, yes, I remember Herman. Nice idea - but I seem to remember he tasted pretty horrible."

Obviously I didn't call my friends in Holland and tell them that. Why rain on their parade?

(But if you still want to give it a try, there's a link to Delia's site with a recipe on it here. And don't say you haven't been warned if you don't like the result...)


Pig in the Kitchen 31 March 2008 at 22:18  

ooo, i do like the idea of the friendship cake...although I might react with horror if someone -in a fit of love - handed me the starter gloop and all i could think was 'great, now i have to divide up gloop, take it round to friends AND make a cake'. but that's me being churlish!
did not know the dutch history, that was interesting.
also intrigued as to what horrendous driving maneouvre can have caused you to pull over and refuse to drive any more. You should come to Paris, they eat the polite english drivers for breakfast!

Pig in the Kitchen 31 March 2008 at 22:18  

and ha ha! i was first!
oh, did i already thank you for nominating me at best blog thingymajig?
well thank you very much!

Pig in the Kitchen 31 March 2008 at 22:19  

having had a beer, i'm very tempted to just post on and on and fill up your comments box. but i won't do that.

Potty Mummy 31 March 2008 at 22:37  

Post away, Pig, post away. (I'm not proud...). And you're welcome.

Frog in the Field 31 March 2008 at 22:56  

Bloody Pigs, get everywhere(with lots of love, of coursexx), I even had one in my kitchen today eating a bloody Mango...AND it was perfectly ripe!!!Anyway, no time for wittering on and on about how Pig is trying to take over your Blog (ppffhhhh!), now then dearest potty Mummy, never, I say, never under-estimate rippling muscles.
I have a queue of adoring females who swoon over my husband and his rippling muscles.

A Wonderful Post, bloody brilliant, as usual, what a jolly fab, sooper Blogist you are, you are, what a sooper Blogist you are!

Frog in the Field 31 March 2008 at 22:57  

And by the way I think Pig is very childish going on and on about being the first.

Frog in the Field 31 March 2008 at 22:57  

it's not funny and it's not clever!

Frog in the Field 31 March 2008 at 23:00  

Have you seen my Cheque Book??

Omega Mum 1 April 2008 at 00:33  

Wow, with that sort of driving, you can't help wondering whether the population was, say, 30 million only a few months back.

Iota 1 April 2008 at 01:44  

You had the vapours? Oh how marvellously 18th century of you.

I am worried about Frog who says she has a love of coarse sex with pigs everywhere...

Sweet Irene 1 April 2008 at 03:16  

You must have been in the west of the country where I know the traffic is horrendous and the drivers are pretty aggressive and the people as a rule are a bit more obnoxious. I live in the furthest south eastern point of the Netherlands where it is a bit different. I am always slightly embarrassed when people say they have been to the Netherlands and it turns out they have only been to the west (the Randstad).

I don't know about all the fried things and using all the parts of the animal. I am a bit lost there. Maybe that is something done there as well. I really don't know.

I am familiar with the Rjsttafel and love and adore it and think it is a culinary delight. We do love Indonesian food and the Indonesian people that came to live in our country.

My husband and I do use our bikes as a main form of transportation and if not that, then the public transport system, which is pretty good, but expensive. All of that has been privatized and now profits have to be made.

It does rain here indeed. Especially in March, it is notorious for it. It can make you melancholy and a very famous poem has been written about it, but the name of the author escapes me just now.

Come back in the summer time and visit the south of the country or the north east, you will like it.

Frog in the Field 1 April 2008 at 06:25  

That doesn't read well, sorry Potty!

Kelly 1 April 2008 at 09:33  

Ooo-my mum tells stories about a friendship cake that 'did the rounds' when we were children. By all accounts it tasted only marginally nicer than anything made with aubergine...must have blocked it from my childhood memory bank!

Potty Mummy 1 April 2008 at 11:15  

Hi Frog, ????????? (Did you find your cheque book, by the way? I had a quick hunt here but only managed to find a hairy humbug and various used tissues at the bottom of my handbag...). And thankyou...

OM - good point, but I don't think they would have had the space. Of course, if you count the number of Dutch living in London their total population may well top the 30m mark.

Hi Iota, I worry about Frog too. And I do try my best to resemble a Jane Austen heroine at every opportunity (empire waistlines always did suit me better).

Irene, you got it, that is where we were. As for your area, I have visited there, and also the North East, and they are both lovely. That's not to say that I don't like the West either - I just find the driving there a little... exciting...

Hi Kelly. Have to disagree with you on the aubergine, which I love (it takes all sorts, I know), but yes, sounds like your mum had the same experience mine did with the cake. I think it was something you got more out of the making of than the eating of. And frankly, that's not my sort of fun...

aims 1 April 2008 at 16:52  

We use to do that with sour dough...and it sounds almost the same..feeding the dough every it away because as a single person you can't eat all of that bready product....

But it was good! So maybe it was a different recipe...I'll have to check it out. I know I still have tons of different recipes for the stuff...but now that I've been diagnosed a celiac I would need to make it glutens...

Pig might remember I queried her on some brownies once for celiacs...oh it seems so long ago now - doesn't it??

I too worried about Frog and agree with Omega Mum...

rilly super 1 April 2008 at 18:23  

I actually went to a dutch evening class for a while pottymummy, but sadly only managed to pronounce everything with a german accent which I am advised is the social equivalent of goosestepping around the room index finger to upper lip Basil Fawlty style. I just could't do the rught sounds which is a great sadness to me as I had quite a close flemish chum at the time, but that is another story

Potty Mummy 1 April 2008 at 19:55  

Hi Aims, I don't think it can have been the same thing if it tasted good - but then you never know. Of course, my mother may also have been getting confused with the alfalfa sprouts that she went through a phase of keeping in the fridge around the same time - and let me tell you, they did NOT taste good...

You know Rilly, I wouldn't worry about pronunciation with Dutch (or Flemish); everyone who speaks the language seems to understand English by default since their own is such a tricky language. So, you could do what I do, learn a little Dutch so you can roughly understand the conversations, and then chip in in English - which frankly, given most non-native speakers dreadful accent's, the Dutch friends and family I have prefer.

Husband has in fact banned me from speaking Dutch in front of the Boys as he doesn't want my awful accent to rub off on them. So you are not alone, Rilly!

Grit 1 April 2008 at 20:45  

am i alone is thinking that this sounds revolting? if i offered a slice to squirrel and added it was 15 days old in the fermenting, i think i might get squirrel's swear word of the moment. (it is poopy bum)

on the other hand i used to work with a german called herman, and he was quite nice and always very polite.

Tattie Weasle 1 April 2008 at 21:11  

I drove to Holland and never noticed anything differnet except that I landed up on one of their bicycle tracks and never noticed the difference.....I think that just about sums up my driving.....!!!!

Potty Mummy 1 April 2008 at 22:49  

Hi Grit, no you are not alone. And you're right, too... (And there really was a German called Herman?)

Hi Tattie, was it a small car?

Milla 2 April 2008 at 13:24  

Goodness whenever I come to your blog you're either just going away or just coming back. Your life must be one long round of suitcases. Yes, (re your comment on my blog) the Malverns, but it's an hour north of here. Have very good eyesight. We are not a million miles from where you grew up! Oh, and never heard of Herman, which possibly is a good thing.

Pig in the Kitchen 2 April 2008 at 19:28  

i'm also a little worried about frog's desire to have rude and dirty sex with me in the kitchen whilst eating a mango. And she clearly wanted to pay me for the privilege becoz she was looking for her cheque book. Silly frog, i only take cash.

I DO remember you asked me about brownies aims!

oh hello Potty, nearly forgot, this is YOUR blog isn't it?!

Frog in the Field 2 April 2008 at 19:53  

Dear Potty
(grovel) I'm So sorry Pig is being so crude (YET AGAIN!!).
I must explain, it was a typo, a really bad one and now they're all picking on me (sniff!) and it's character assasination, that's what (sob).
Can I have thay humbug you mentioned to make me feel better? I'll give it a quick swill in the dog bowl before I suck it.
I did find my cheque book , thank you , it was b'there.

Potty Mummy 2 April 2008 at 19:57  

Hi Milla, yes sometimes my life does feel like one long round of suitcases - though this is mainly because my business travelling husband hardly ever bothers to unpack from one trip to the next... (and I sure as hell am not going to do it for him).

Pig, you know I always had you pegged for taking Amex.

Frog - a swill in the dog bowl? My, you lot are posh up there, aren't you? (is my handbag fluff not good enough for you?)

Pig in the Kitchen 4 April 2008 at 11:27  

ah Potty, keep it in cash and you there's no paper trail for the tax man to follow. And you with a husband for a banker (or do i mean the other way round), you should know that!

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