One of the things that annoys me most about the Netherlands is the Dutch attitude with food. The Dutch seem to think that food is something that should be cheap, fast, soft to the bite (why??), unsalted, and should not assault your senses with any discernible taste.
- Most bread in the Netherlands is extremely soft and can be squeezed into 5% of its initial volume with your thumb, if you are in a bad mood. It has no crust, no taste and transmits sadness and depression. I miss good bread so much that I nearly start crying when I get it somewhere.
- Typical lunch of the average Dutch person (and I don’t mean children whose parents have left them alone for a day): 1 slice of bread covered with Nutella. 2 slices of bread covered with peanut butter. A glass of milk.
- Lunches that are typically offered at workshops in Dutch Universities consist of: Sandwich containing 2 slices of industrial, tasteless cheese or sandwich containing bright red slices of
pressed garbagemeat. Forget about a salad leave, a pickle or anything alike in the sandwich. A bowl of instant soup that makes you gag if you want to eat it twice in the same week. Milk and Sourmilk. Upon realizing that this is all that they’re going to get, foreign visitor usually get an sad, empty expression in their eyes. Questioningly they look for the faces of the Dutch people around them. Those do not find anything wrong and happily squeeze the food in their mouths without any expression of distaste or pleasure in their faces, as if they were refueling cars.
- “Good” Dutch restaurants are very tastefully decorated, with beautifully set out tables, heavy leather-bound menues, candles. The main course sounds good, costs 25 Euros and arrives beautifully arranged on your plate. Happily, you take the first bite. Is this possible? They forgot to salt the fish? Oh, they also forgot to salt the risotto. And apparently they also forgot to add wine or cheese to the risotto. Incredulously, you add plenty of salt and pepper. Only that is doesn’t help. The food has negative saltiness and so little aroma that it stays bland whatever you do until the point you have oversalted it. In the background, the waiter folds a napkin into a cruise ship.
- Then there are the “young” places, like a bio-organic ‘baked potato place’ with a retro-logo and understatement decor. You think here you find find some dedication to food, some passion, a well-travelled young chef. And how the heck they will mess up a baked potato? Here’s how: First, by all means, let the potato cool. Then smash the inside of the poor patato, leaving only the crust intact and mix it with *something* that annihilates the subtle taste of the baked potato to nothing (I think the something is some sort of cream substitute). Then reheat the baked potato only partially in the microwave before serving it, so that you get *cold tasteless mashed potato* inside the shell of what was once a proud baked potato. With this, you get a completely free interpretation of what was advertised as ‘cole slaw’ on the menu, which does not contain any of the usual ingredients, but instead cucumber, and has no taste whatsoever, or alternatively tsatskiki without any garlic or, for that matter, cucumber. Come on. Even the British can do baked potato.
I am ready for another business trip to Italy.