On lockdown and my Dutch culinary journey
The hard lockdown announced by the Dutch government in December 2021 caught me by surprise. As an international student, I had planned to spend my first Dutch winter travelling (vaxxed and masked) to various cities of The Netherlands and exploring museums, cafés and Christmas markets. The rising spread of Omicron, unfortunately, made that impossible as another lockdown came into effect. I didn’t mind the measures being taken — they were, after all, meant to keep me safe during the pandemic. But now I had ample time on my hands and the grocery store was the only place I could visit. What do I do?
A tweet popped up on my timeline, written by a person in lockdown in another part of the world. It went something like this: If people start tweeting about baking bread again, I am going to scream.
That tweet took me back to March 2020, when I was in India and we had gone into lockdown for the first time. People all over the world were in lockdown in their respective homes but were baking banana bread and sharing recipes online. To keep myself occupied, I had tried making dishes from various countries. It had been my way of travelling the world. Maybe I could do that again? Or, in an ode to the many cities in The Netherlands that I was unable to visit, maybe I could try making Dutch dishes instead?
I had already eaten oliebollen in Utrecht and bitterballen in Amsterdam and loved both. I chose to start my cooking journey with hutspot from Leiden. Everyone knows the origin story of hutspot so I won’t repeat it here. I am a vegetarian so I left out the meat (sorry Dutch friends, I know that’s sacrilege!), but I still ended up with a dish that I can fall in love with.
I then tried making snert. The green split pea soup got its flavour from the onion, carrot and potato I added to it. I enjoyed both the process and the final product and it was a wonderful way to spend a rainy day.
Finally, of course, I had hagelslag. The combination of bread, butter and chocolate transported me to a whole new space. If there is paradise on earth, then this was it.
My Dutch culinary journey has been off to a good start, and I intend to continue it in the days to come.