Town Market

Farmers’ markets are one of my favorite food related things. In the US, most farmers’ markets last from May/June to about September/October. For Mike and I visiting the local farmers’ market was always an event. We would plan to eat a meal there, try a new food, and bring back some goodies for at least one more meal. Often we would pick out interesting or unfamiliar foods. To this day one of my favorite finds was a middle eastern bakery. After moving to the Netherlands, I was very excited to find out that our town has a market twice a week.

From what I can tell after living here almost seven months, pretty much every town in the Netherlands has a town market once or twice a week. The town market is very similar to the American farmers’ market but the town market is often bigger and for some people their main source of food shopping. You can find produce, herbs, breads, eggs, cheese, fish, worst, nuts, seeds, tea, coffee, even potted plants, linens, and clothing not to mention an array of things for your bike. Our market also has a fry stand where you can order a cone of fries with your favorite sauce and perhaps a kroket if you are really hungry.

At first, I didn’t do a lot of shopping at the town market. For a couple reasons:

1. I was convinced that it was going to be overpriced or higher priced than the supermarket. This is generally not true, the prices are about the same if not a little less at the market depending on the item and the seller. In my experience the town market produce is often better quality and more varied than the supermarket.

2. It was winter, a balmy winter with no snow, but still colder than Texas where I had spent the last two to two and a half years. Yes, I was a wimp.

3. I didn’t speak any Dutch and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to understand people. Most sellers speak at least enough English to conduct their business but I didn’t know that at the time. Now I know enough Dutch to make my purchases without resorting to English.

The present
I have noticed that some things are way easier to find at the market than at the supermarket. A couple times the supermarket was out of a veggie I needed but at the town market the same veggie could be found in several stalls. I usually plan my shopping around going to the town market and what is available seasonally. One of my recent town market hauls included raspberries, cucumber, and salad greens.

Gebruik van mij Nederlands

For those of you keeping track it has been about 8 weeks since I took my Dutch immersion course with Sylvia. I have been making the effort to speak Dutch everyday or at least read and listen to Dutch. Often my interactions are with shopkeepers or waiters so my conversations don’t usually last very long. Although last week I did have a nice long conversation with a shopkeeper. We discussed a wide range of topics from artwork (the shop sells art and curios from around the world) to living in the Netherlands. I got to use some vocabulary that I don’t often get to use so it was very exciting.

In addition to my regular errands, I have gone to a few events to meet people and practice my Dutch. Normally, I am not very social but learning a language forces me to be social. You may remember that I recently learned to paint in Dutch. I also checked out a couple language cafes in Amsterdam where I met other Dutch speakers including my friend, Joanna. She and I have begun meeting a couple times a week to work on our Dutch. It is great to have someone to have a language partner who is learning with you and cheering you on. To anyone else learning another language, I highly recommend learning with a friend or two.

Having lunch and practicing Dutch.
Having lunch and practicing Dutch.

Food Discoveries #2

Once upon a time I would only drink wine (usually red) and occasionally some vodka (loaded with cranberry juice). Then I discovered American micro-brews and eased into the world of beer drinking. In the Netherlands, you can find almost any style of beer: IPA, pilsner, stout, Trappist, lambic etc. Due to our proximity to Belgium and Germany, stores stock a lot of Belgian styles and German beers. Mike and I are on a mission to try as many of the beers available as possible.

Here are some of my favorites:

Palm Speciale Belge – This beer is a caramel color and tastes like a light amber. It drinks easy on its own or with food. Bonus: I can find it at almost any pub or cafe.

Belgian Wit – I love the light and slightly bitter/sour taste. This style is very refreshing.

Belgian Bruin – This style reminds me of a lighter stout, caramelly but not as dark.

So what are some things you eat with these beers? Well aside from drinking a beer with dinner the Dutch will have bitterballen, kaassouffl├ęs, krokets, and maybe a loempia or two. Personally, I enjoy

kaassouffl├ęs – cheese sticks wrapped in rice paper and deep fried served with sweet chili sauce

loempias -think spring rolls also served with a sweet chili sauce

Another one of my favorite Dutch snacks is Katjang Pedis, peanuts covered in a spicy sambaal mixture. I always try to have some Katjang Pedis or mixed nuts in the house.

Food Discoveries #1

One of my favorite things of traveling is trying new foods. Living in the Netherlands has given me more time to find and try new foods. Now it is a widespread opinion that Dutch food is not going to win any gourmand awards. However, I think the Dutch have the comfort food thing down. Here are some of my favorite foods so far.

Stamppot – This is the first Dutch dish I made and it is super simple and 100% comfort food. Stamppot is mashed veggies (with a healthy dose of potatoes or aardappels) topped with cheese and wurst or sausage (though I usually skip the wurst for my helping). I love how easy it is to make and it is the perfect lazy comfort food dinner.

A variation on the traditional stamppot. This one has cherry tomatoes, courgette, and basil.
A variation on the traditional stamppot. This one has cherry tomatoes, courgette, and rucola.

Erwtensoep (split pea soup)- This past year was the first time I tried split pea soup and I have to say I love it. The Dutch do their split pea soup thick making it a good hearty soup and very cozy on a winter day. It also goes nicely with brown bread and butter.

Fries – Ok, so fries are actually a Belgian creation but the Dutch do them well. Go to any town market and there will be a fry truck. The traditional toppings are mayonnaise (none of that Miracle Whip stuff) or speciaal (fritesaus, raw onions, and curry ketchup). You can also get joppie, tartare, curry ketchup, and a variety of other sauces depending on the fry truck. Since Dutch fries are very messy, no skimping on sauce, you eat them with a mini wooden fork. Of course, you can get them plain but really why would you want to?

Stroopwafels – You may have seen the mass produced variety of these in the US, however, nothing beats a fresh stroopwafel. Around the holidays you can get fresh stroopwafels from street vendors. (If you are lucky they are also available fresh year round at town markets.) They are filled with caramel and go wonderfully with coffee.

Oliebollen – Literally, oil balls but don’t let the name scare you. These are basically deep fried donut balls (I think the Dutch like to either mash their food or turn it into a ball) with some powdered sugar on top. Another popular variety has raisins. Sadly, you can only get them around Sinterklaas and Kerstdag (Christmas).

Oliebol