Day 17: Food, Glorious Food

Carla was curious about what we eat here and what we feed the kids. Believe me, I was curious too and I’m still learning. Everything is different – from size portions, to flavor, to directions in a different language, to ovens using celcius vs. fahrenheit, from pounds to kilos, to how frequently they shop here, to the packaging, and I could go on and on.

For breakfast, I grew up with a Dutch treat – Hagel Slag. Basically it is a dark, chocolate sprinkle that you sprinkle onto buttered toast. In California, I could buy a box for $6.00 at Ranch 99. Here at the Albert Hijn (the favored grocery store from the locals here) a box is less than 2 Euros – less than half price!  My kids are enjoying this sweet treat, although it’s not the most healthiest of breakfasts. Jeff and I also like a piece of aged cheese on toast for breakfast.

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For lunch, we’ve been enjoying Toasties – like grilled cheese sandwiches, sometimes with a slice of thin meat. Lil’ C has found a new passion which is helping me cook in the kitchen. He actually found a new way to make grilled cheese toast by sprinkling cheese into the hot pan first to melt and crisp it, and then to add the bread on top. The cheese sticks to the bread and makes the most delicious sandwiches that we all love. The other family favorite is quesadillas. Although they don’t seem to have cheddar cheese here, like we do back in CA. Instead, it’s a white, young cheese that tastes great.  We’ve figured out the right packaging now.

While we’re busy messing up the kitchen, we have also been preparing dinner at the same time. Cook once, eat twice!  I like it. But lots of times the dinner smells so good, that there are lots of taste testers and samplers nibbling away at dinner.

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One thing I like about the local stores is that they have a lot of pre-cut and pre-sliced mixed vegetables and meats that make for easy stir-fries.  We’ve been making curries, stir fried noodle dishes, fried rice (nasi goreng) and similar dishes. They are easy to make and we all love them. We add some soy sauce, fish sauce, chili sauce, oyster sauce, garlic and/or salt and pepper.  But I think we need to find some new ideas.

The hardest part for me is reading directions on the backs of packages. I’ve been able to adapt and just be creative, but I’d love to follow a recipe or instructions to make something as simple as pancakes. I know I could type the recipe into Google translate, but that means more work. So for now, I’ve just been cooking what I know.

Some things taste very different than we expect too. For example, C wanted BBQ sauce on his fries. His BBQ sauce actually tasted more like thousand island dressing and nothing like BBQ sauce.  And when I made fajitas for the Petersons, using packaged fajita seasoning, it had a nice curry flavored undertone. That’s great if you’re expecting curry, but not so great when you’re hoping for fajitas.

We’ve also noticed that the savory flavors we’re used to tend to be milder here.

Another snack like food we all love are the bitter-ballen. I don’t know exactly how to describe them, but they are like a deep fried, thick gravy like veggie filling that are served with spicy mustard. You can order them as little snack size balls or as Kroquets – more of a Twinkie like shape that is served on a bun. I love them.  French fries or frites are also quite popular. The difference is that they are served typically with mayonaise, but not the Mayo we’re used to in America. It’s actually quite flavorful with a much better texture. Satay (peanut) sauce is also served with fries. Mmm…. Not going to get any skinnier eating this way!

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And as for shopping, the cashiers sit at their cash registers and customers must bring their own bags and bag their own groceries. Of course, they have bags to buy too.  Eggs are not refrigerated but instead are found on a typical shelf like you would find bread. I still refrigerate them when we get home. Luckily we have a big, American sized refrigerator!  The bread is very fresh and there are several local choices. You don’t see as many big name brands competing for shelf space like we do in the states. I like this change.  To use a shopping cart, you must put a 50 cent piece into the cart to use it, and when you return it, your 50 cent piece is also returned. Good control of the carts!  By the cash register, the candy choices are a bit different too.

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One other difference that is HUGE, is that kids can buy and consume wine and beer at the age of 16!  Isn’t that surprising?

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The market place is also open on Friday afternoons in Amstelveen. It’s fun to shop around, people watch and taste hot, freshly made stroopwafels! My favorite dutch cookie – waffle like cone flavored cookies filled with a sweet, warm, caramel filling.  This week we enjoyed seeing the fish market with HUGE live lobsters. The kids also picked some sweet candies and we enjoyed just walking around and taking it all in.

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We’re enjoying our new home and settling in.  Today the massive IKEA delivery arrived and the assembly team worked for 8 hours straight!  We’re just waiting for our couch to arrive next week and for our kitchen table to be re-delivered hopefully early this week as some pieces were missing from the box today. Oh well – we will just enjoy our chairs and one ottoman.  And the kids are happy with their new bedrooms and personal items. It’s all good.  Now I need to go get a stroop wafel for dessert! Want one?  xo