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March 26, 2003

Food and the dutch

When was the last time you ate Dutch food (being in Holland doesnt count). Can you name any Dutch food? No? Don't worry - you're not missing out on much. There are some great things in the Netherlands, such as the people, the towns, the beer and various other aspects. However there is no such thing as internationally renowned Dutch food.

Why? Read on...

The Dutch are very proud of their customs and traditions. Many of the day to day activities are based on centuries-old customs that have changed little since first appearing. Most outsiders view many of these customs as backward and outdated, and in fact many Dutch even cannot explain the reasons or the origin for each. Amongst the more well known ones:

  • Having social gatherings and parties done such that everyone is sitting in a circle around a woefully inadequate coffee table, sipping on coffee. They talk about the same thing and people are all very polite. And visibly uncomfortable, as if it's a necessary burden to go through.
  • Eating dinner at 6pm on the dot.. The majority of households eat dinner at exactly this time, and seem almost in a panic if they can't get home in time to eat at 6. (Hint: Take a chill pill!)
  • People being very slow at shop counters. they will pay, get receipts, and then leisurely spend a minute or two putting wallets away and packing bags without getting out of the way for the next customer. AARGH!

    These are some of the more noticeable customs that a foreigner here is likely to see. Now, someone who works in the Netherlands may also notice something else about the Dutch - the lunch hour. It works something like this:

    Everybody files down together to the cafeteria at generally the exact same time every day. This must not be allowed to deviate by more than 5 or 10 minutes. Once there, you go around the cafeteria and pick out something warm. usually it consists of:

  • Krokets, kind of like a deep fried sausage shaped lump of stew, made of unidentifiable animal products and plant material.
  • Frikandels, best thought of as long hot dog frankfurters without the skin and with drier "meat". Deep fried. Hm.
  • Chips 'n' mayo, yum yum!

    The most popular food for lunch though is boterham. This consists of a slice of bread, slathered in butter, and a single topping. The topping is generally either a slice of cold meat, a slice of cheese, some raw mince, or chocolate sprinkles(which I stopped eating before I was ten!). There is rarely a second slice of bread on top. The most intriguing part of this, is that it's is eaten with a knife and fork! Cut into either four or six squares, it forms a staple lunchtime diet for millions of Dutchmen and women. As a foreigner, it was initially quite bewildering to see this happen, and to this day I still cannot get over the sight of grown businessmen eating chocolate sprinkle sandwiches with a knife and fork. It really is quite bizaare.

    That's my little insight into the dutch culture of food. I'm off to have some pizza now.

    Posted by Ben at 10:49 PM | Comments (1)
  • March 18, 2003

    Stupid White Men

    After a recommendation from Affa, I went and got myself a copy of Michael Moore's book Stupid White Men. It's a hilarious look at the current situation in the US now, and how George W. Bush acted criminally to get the position of US President, the position which actually belongs to Al Gore.

    Although I am not American, and never have a desire to live there, the decisions of the Criminal-in-chief impact the entire world, so I feel I have a right to understand what is going on.

    Despite the book's humour, it gives a great insight to just what is wrong with the United States government. He goes on to examine how W. stole the Presidential title, exactly why his cronies are interested in oil, and what needs to be fixed up to make it worthy of becoming a decent model of a country.

    Michael leans heavily to the left in this book, and there are quite a few things I disagree with (but that's the beauty of freedom!). However his overall views are very well thought out and a chunky acknowledgements section at the back explains how he got his facts.

    I'm not a very political person myself, and generally find the topic highly uninteresting and tedious, but Michael presents it with great humour. In fact, the book has a dual politics/humour categorisation. This one really was a great read, and highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand just how Bush came into power, why the US is struggling with so many socil problems, or just anyone with a gripe about Bush.

    Anyone who is a true "American Patriot" will probably find many of the topics in the book downright offensive, but thats what happens when you are so blind to the truth. Eighty percent of the senior Bush administration has deep personal interests in oil companies (Condoleezza even had a tanker names after her!). Is it no surprise that they have pushed for only policies which benefit these companies?

    Posted by Ben at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

    March 11, 2003

    What i'm thinking now..

    Posted by Ben at 01:23 AM | Comments (0)

    March 07, 2003

    To-Do

    Yes...finally got around to releasing To-Do today. It's been working quite well for me lately and figure I might as well release it publicly in case some poor soul decides that it is useful.

    Lets see if anyone actually emails me patches or submits a theme? Anyway, I reckon it's pretty useful, being my first PHP project. Known Perl for over 5 years, and only just got around to learning PHP a few weeks ago. And I'm glad I did!

    Posted by Ben at 12:35 AM | Comments (2)

    March 03, 2003

    Limburgers and carnivals

    No, this entry has nothing to do with food. A Limburger is a person from Limburg, the southernmost tip of Dutch-land. I like to call it the Dutch scrotum, for reasons that can only be understood by looking at a map. Limburgers are fiercly loyal to their little province. It is seen almost as an autonomous state, and this is shown on the section of the border between Germany and Holland in Limburg.

    Despite these quirks, Limburg is a lovely place. It has hills, something lacking in the rest of Holland, and some quite great little old towns with old ruins. Plus, there are plenty of breweries around. It's a must on any visitors timetable.

    Once a year, some of the towns in and around Limburg hold a traditional carnival. This is in the true spirit of one, and features a streat parade with floats, plenty of colour, music, dancing and lots of alcohol. I think it's really a drinking festival with a parade thrown in foor good measure.

    So, this weekend I hopped on a train down to Maastricht where the largest one is held. With a 7:30 wakeup, and a 3 hour journey, you can't say I wasn't keen! After arriving at Amsterdam central station, I hopped on the Intercity train and settled in for the journey. I hoped I was going to get a good vantage point, as I wanted to give my camera another spin.

    Somewhere around Den Bosch, a couple of guys got on, all dressed up in orange (the Dutch national colour), and sat down in my compartment. A few stations later almost a dozen other guys and gals, also dressed in orange, hopped on the train (to a whooping screaming greeting) to meet the guys in my compartment. With all their excitement about the parade, I couldnt resist and joined in their fun! As it turned out, they were walking in the parade with their own float, and did I want to join them? How could I resist!

    The whole parade just went off!! Aside from a bit of a delay, we had a great time heading down the route, dancing around the float. Much alcohol was consumed, and I got plenty of photos of the day. I met plenty of great people, got a little drunk (Drop Shot is fucking harsh!), and got to really be a part of this tradition. Thanks guys!

    I'll do it again next year if I can!

    Posted by Ben at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)