Author : Albert Kooy

It is still difficult to explain what our Dutch food culture is. France has determined our eating culture for centuries. First, French cookery books were translated into Dutch. Then came the first Dutch cookery books for professional cooks and then for girls at domestic schools, written by ladies such as Mrs Witkop and Cornelia Johanna Wannée.

But what is a Dutch dish and what would we consider our 'National Disco'?
Like the Spanish have their paella, the Belgians waterzooi, the Hungarians goulash, the Austrians schnitzel, pasta for the Italians, hamburgers for the Americans, fresh spring rolls for the Vietnamese or sushi for the Japanese.

And the Dutch? ENDIVE stamppot. We are almost the only country that produces this (head of) endive and process it in a stamppot with bacon and a meatball in gravy in a pit!
Can we also use this as an inspiration for Dutch gastronomy? "Inspired by"?
Preparing vegetables just like we prepare meat? Roasting on the BBQ, spit roasting, smoking, raw, fermenting, dry aged vegetables…

The other day I had a dream...... "I was sitting with a couple of cooks in a dark brown pub having a few beers. In the meantime, a few bitterballen were served and the conversation became increasingly noisy as we tried to get above the tones of "Under my thump" by the Rolling Stones. We almost had to shout in each other's ears to get the gist of our story across". Just an ordinary evening in an ordinary Dutch café with ordinary cooks. (I told you this was a dream).

What would this conversation have been about? Of course ...about food!

We had a heated discussion in the pub about how to make real pea soup: with pigtails, legs, snout? With or without carrots?  With smoked sausage or only with meat? And of course only pork? Sometimes you even see recipes with beef! Or it can be different... vegetarian, but seasoned with bouillon cubes. All reasons to have an important conversation in a pub, or maybe in the morning in a café with a delicious cup of coffee and a home-made biscuit…

"Do you use breadcrumbs or fresh bread soaked in milk in your minced meat? Raw or cooked onions, garlic or no garlic?
And then of course the frying, in oil, butter or margarine? All very important issues to talk about.

Which potato for the chips, salad or jacket potato. Should they be boiled first or do we make them from raw potatoes with or without chopped onion?

Have you seen the first turnip greens? When will they be here? The real cold ground asparagus?
Do you know a chip shop that still makes its own fresh chips and mayonnaise? Who has the real Zoervleis, made from horse meat….

Do you understand?

We may not be able to imagine this in the Netherlands yet, but I think that in many a Spanish or Italian café/bar, there are emotional conversations going on among the locals about how a certain dish should be prepared or which mother is the best! Do you make spaghetti carbonara with cream or without? Can you drink cappuccino after 12 o'clock in the afternoon? In which paella does only fish go and in which fish and meat...?

I think, when we hear this kind of conversation every day in the pub, we can speak of a Dutch food culture and that moment is getting closer!