Animal Pancakes and What Cheese Can Teach Us about Love
Warning to those traveling to the Netherlands with children: Wanneer u een dier Pannenkoek van het kindermenu in The Pancake Bakery bestellen, wees dan niet verbaasd als het wordt geserveerd overgoten met een gevulde slang en een aantal Zweedse vis zoals snoep die ervoor zorgt dat je kleintje zeggen “woooooooah!”
(P.S. The translation is found later in this post so you’ll soon be in-the-know if only you have the patience to continue reading.)Diehard fans of this blog (you know who you are) may jump the gun and use Google Translate to discover the secret in that sentence. Those who speak Dutch will have little idea of what I’m saying as I’m quite sure my use of the language is a disaster. For everyone else, suffice to say that my little family and I just spent a week eating our way through Amsterdam and Utrecht and we liked it very much, very much indeed.
First, I’ll have you know ’twas love that inspired our trip to the Netherlands. A wedding, in fact—a most out-of-this-world wedding, at that, which included an Italian feast, a circus, a ribbon acrobat, a fire eater, a teatro metamorfosis, numerous declarations of absolute admiration and adoration for the bride and groom, another feast, a castle, a Dutch picnic, tandem bikes, a group of 300 enthusiastic guests, and so very much more. Yet, none of these marvelous and extraordinary things had me as convinced that bride was indeed in love—truly, madly, deeply in love—with the groom as much as did the overwhelming presence of cheese. (More on love and cheese later.)
Second, I’m very happy to report that none of our brood was hit by a bicyclist. My husband did walk into a bike that was chained to rack… and it did make a big ruckus and twist into an awkward mess onto the sidewalk… but he insists this doesn’t count as a bike accident since there was no actual rider involved. (There were other points to his argument which I won’t get into except to say that I beg to differ.)
Third, I’m ashamed to admit that one member of our brood went three (maybe four) days without eating a single vegetable. I’m not naming names but she does not speak English (or Dutch), insists on eating all foods with her bare hands, and must be carried or pushed in her ‘buggy’ everywhere she goes.
Fourth, since I’m hoping to write off part of this trip as a work expense, please bear with me as I summarize a brief list of food facts culled from eating research I conducted while traveling:
17 food lessons from 7 days in Holland
1. The apple compote from Albert Heijn is darned good. Like, super darned good. (In fact, I might be willing to accept it over Nutella when a sugar craving strikes. No joke. This is huge.)
2. You can easily get through U.S. Customs with a jar of apple compote.
3. Gluten-free in Dutch = Gluten-vrij
4. Dutch people like Italian food.
5. Serving cotton candy at your wedding is much enjoyed and appreciated.
6. In Amsterdam, gelato is ubiquitous (see #4). Ditto for Utrecht. I mention this because standing alongside a canal under the moonlight with a scoop of ricotta and fig gelato may very well be worth a 7 hour flight with toddler.
7. American Cookies is the gelato flavor favored by Dutch waitresses.
8. When eating out, if you’d like to order meat, cheese, or bread, then you’re in luck. Vegetables = not possible. (Though, you and your child will graciously be offered french fries as an alternative.)
9. Soused herring is slippery, slimy and best avoided unless you are part Dutch.
10. A pack of colored file folder stickers can keep a toddler occupied for at least 27 minutes while flying. (Not food related but highly valuable information nonetheless.)
11. The milk served on KLM airlines is organic.
12. Bibsters (disposable bibs) are the bomb! (Pay no mind to the cost, just pony up. You will be happy.)
13. If you were raised in Holland, you probably consider the Starbucks grande latte Supersized. (You probably consider any drink over 5 ounces Supersized. Be proud.)
14. In The Netherlands, organic is referred to as ‘biological.’ (And that makes me feel weird.)
15. If you’re looking to avoid growth hormones, there’s no need to insist on ‘biological’ versions of milk, etc. The use of r-BGH and r-BST is banned in the Netherlands and throughout Europe. (Again, Holland, be proud.)
16. Weighing your own produce is fun. Lucky for you, you will get to take your hand at it if you go to a Dutch grocery store.
17. When you order an Animal Pancake from the children’s menu at The Pancake Bakery in Amsterdam, do not be surprised if it is served topped with a stuffed snake and a number of Swedish-fish like candy that will make your little one say “woooooooah!” Please be prepared for every meal to pale in comparison hereafter.
P.S. If you’d like to embarrass yourself by attempting to say this above sentence in Dutch, scroll back to the top.)
My research is complete, on to cheese and love.
The bride, a former cheese fiend (forgive me, is that too strong a word? Anyone who has shared a plate of saganaki with this woman will know what I’m saying) now lives a very virtuous, dairy-free lifestyle. Yet, despite her having given up this tough-to-resist food (I once read that cheese has an addictive quality, working on brain receptors the same way as morphine), she has agreed to live the rest of her life with a man from a country replete with this temptation.
(For those of you have haven’t been to Holland, there are gorgeous and enticing little cheese shops everywhere. As if that weren’t enough, the cheese is good, really good. There are entire museums celebrating the stuff. Literally. Cheese, cheese, cheese.)
This would be like me swearing off chocolate and then falling in love with Willy Wonka and hanging out in The Chocolate Factory just to be near him.
Could I do it? For love…Maybe?
I’m not sure I could. And that’s how cheese game me my proof…
Be still, my salivating heart! The bride is most surely in love with her Dutchy, the groom.