The Interesting Diet of Holland

Dutch courage acquires a new meaning in Amsterdam when, at breakfast they offer you sandwiches of bread, rich moist ginger cake and Edam cheese generously sealed with pale butter.  Heaps of neatly sliced bread in wicker baskets fill the odd places on the breakfast table.  You help yourself and spread the slices with chocolate paste, bilberry jam or fruit marmalade, or cheese flavored with caraway seeds. A little of the bread may be consumed with fried eggs, “bacon and eggs wizout bacon,” as our host described them.

As a rule Dutch breakfast bread is “yesterday’s,” for the law against night baking is strictly observed, and the sale of bread in shops before ten o’clock in the morning is prohibited. Hotels with their own bakeries, of course, are in no way prevented from serving the most delicious Continental rolls imaginable at breakfast; but the “New Rolls for Breakfast” movement continues its propaganda.

Breakfast Surprises

Tea is the usual thing at breakfast, but milk—such creamy milk—and delightful chocolate are often served. Bacon does appear later in the day, but rasher-loving Britons would scarcely recognize their favorite food in the substantial dice of boiled bacon served with sauerkraut. This is one of the three staple Dutch dishes. Another consists of smoked sausage served with curly kale deliciously cooked in butter. Then there is the dryish, very savory delicious hotch potch of vegetables cooked en casserole with lots of butter—always butter—and a little meat as a relish. Vegetables predominate in the Dutch cuisine as meat lords it over the British.

Bewildering Variety

Lunch in old Alkmaar, the great cheese market—or anywhere in Holland for that matter—is a feast of bewildering variety. All the breakfast specialties are once more in evidence, together with more masses of neatly cut bread and many extra dishes of baby shrimps, smoked salmon, ham, sardines, Camembert (made in Holland) and chocolate “hundreds and thousands” as spreads for the bread and butter. Dinner rolls, too; and these are carefully cut in half and buttered, then cut again into neat portions suitable for eating at table. It is bad manners to break bread in Holland; “the French and the English may please themselves.” A luncheon entrée of the usual kind of served—that is to say, a nicely prepared leftover dish incorporating the remains of the previous day’s dinner.

The Dutch have no equivalent of our English tea-time, but at four o’clock delicate china is taken from the “tea cabinet,” and tea is served, quite informally, from the tray on the top of the cabinet, tea with cream and sugar, or, very occasionally, with lemon; and a dainty biscuits—no bread and butter this time, no cake, no jam, no scones, no toasted buns, above all, no tartlets. A young skipper from Rotterdam who used to visit Hull told me in horrified tones how he had seen an English tea-shop customer consume “seven tartlets at tea—one behind another,” to say nothing of several “sheets” of bread and butter with strawberry jam.

Dinner rather follows the French tradition. In the winter time young people lunch very simply off a certain substantial pea soup, with lots of bread and butter, this soup being served at all cafes and on the ice during the skating season.

Salt is not sprinkled over dishes at meal times, although the usual condiments grace the Dutch table; hostesses might take it as a reflection upon the cooking. Dessert fruits are varied and luxurious, but the English love of sweets and puddings is considered somewhat juvenile. Not that a chocolate biscuit is declined with eleven o’clock coffee or with the cup of strong tea taken at nine in the evening; but then chocolate and the Dutch are very old friends.

Reduced to Tears

Plum puddings are frankly copied from the British model. The Dutch love of bread has inspired ham and many other sandwiches not very unlike our own. Head cheese, the brawny dish so popular in Yorkshire, frequently turns up at Dutch luncheons. So does fried fish, accompanied by a much minced and richly dresses salad. As for mint sauce, most of us have heard of that distinguished French lady whose first experience of English roast lamb with mint sauce reduced her to tears; our Dutch friends react in a more sedate but equally poignant manner.

Tea drinking is no less popular than in England, and the brew, generally, is preferred much stronger. Porridge, too, is often served at breakfast, but a milky variety rather than the stodgy kind. Grilling is unknown. Meats are cooked slowly and basted often and liberally with butter, a form of procedure likely to be stigmatized as “extravagant” or “far too rich” by English cooks. Casserole and vegetable cookery are understood, and the vitamin and mineral properties of food preserved as a consequence.

At the same time delicatessen shops abound, and countless varieties of highly seasoned dainties are indulged in. beer is much liked, and naturally enough, the fine liqueurs of Dutch distilling. Distilleries and breweries in the Netherlands have been sending yeast for many, many years to English bakeries.—New Health.