You can’t eat Melba Toast lying down

So this is about Food. With a Capital ‘F’. What’s it for? You are what you eat…does that mean I’m an olive, crossed with seeded bread and peaches? OK with me.
The NL and cuisine aren’t sentiments which sit well together. The popular notion of eating in The NL is of hearty, stodgy, dull food, enlivened with some pancakes, strong coffee and a dash of cannabis.
So what does this mean for someone determined to try and ‘Go Native’ as far as food’s concerned. Look away now if of squeamish disposition. Smoked eel: , I chickened out from buying it in Cley (Norfolk). Pathetic excuses were (a) it’s VERY expensive (b) don’t know if we’ll like it. On the other hand, it’s supposed to be an aphrodisiac…
Now I’ve tried smoked eel; the atmosphere of Pinkstereen,( nowadays Prawn Queen Festival) swept away the objections as easily as the wind grabs you from a mooring (if it feels like it). Smoked eel is just right, in an understated yet meltingly correct way when eaten after a day in the open air and accompanied by WHITE toast. Fibre, fibre, go away. I’ll eat you again another day.
Ertwensoep is another kettle of fish altogether. It’s actually pea soup, with celariac, other veg and smoked sausage thrown in at the last minute and just what us Summer Sailors crave after a hard day on the meer. Understandable that when the ice is thick enough for the Elfstedentoch to be an ice skating, rather than a bike race, it’s the sustenance of heroes.
There are ships where you can buy pancakes : ‘t Pannekoekschip: a feature of many a harbour, giving you an ‘on the sea’ experience (they’re always moored) with none of the throwing up or any other discomfort which might follow eating a delicious concoction of fat, milk, whisked eggs, sugar and spices, while actually afloat.
Waffles with the dough as the ‘bread’ in a syrup sandwich. Apparently they’ve been around since 1812. Properly called ‘Stroopwafel’ and wonderful, although I prefer them with coffee, rather than melted into the liquid. And Apple cake in the afternoons, with coffee, of course, preferably consumed while seated outside a pavement cafe, ¬†with a view of church towers and serenaded by the Carillon…
I’ve yet to try: Bami Goeng (stir fried noodles with spices), Bitterballen (spicy fried meatballs) or Poffertjes( miniature deep fried panckes – sound wierd, but I’ sure they’re delicious). Salted, spiced herring a given,accompanied by the many kinds of stalwart, seeded and tasty bread.
And finally: liquorice or ‘drop’ as it’s called here. Brought up on Pomfret cakes, from Pontefract in Yorkshire, Where t’ducks fly backards over t’treacle mines, to keep t’muck out their eyes, The NL is as close to paradise as it’s possible to be, with whole sections of the supermarket devoted to this confection. There’s ‘English’ drop, which is basically Liquorice Allsorts, ‘Fruit drop’ seemingly unobtainable in the north of The NL and almost worth driving to a service station further south just to buy them, ‘Honing Drop’ which are honey flavoured liquorice and so on and so on. When Nigella Lawson did a recipe for ‘Blackcurrant and Liquorice Cake’ on TV, I thought that was as far as it could go. But the Dutch, with a relaxed attitude about so many things and a determination to enjoy themselves, leave Nigella on the starting block. I wonder what the Liquorice detox programme would give you to wean you off the stuff? Aniseed? Ginger? Nutmeg? Almost worth registering as an addict.
And why the title of this piece? I’ve been re-reading Terry Darlington’s ‘Narrow Dog to Carcasonne’ and realised I’m taking this voyage/adventure/experience all too seriously. Pass me the Drop, will you?

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