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Written By: frenchy on January 7, 2008 2 Comments

The Dutch, like many other European countries, have a special relationship with Germany. Let’s have a look at stuff that possibly could have determined that relationship. It sure as hell has to do with two world wars; during the first the Dutch stayed neutral but let’s say that they were a bit pro-German or at least anti-British. And when the Kaiser had to flee his home country, he found refuge and asylum in the Netherlands.
The second world war was a bit more intense for the Dutch-German relationship, seeing as the Germans occupied the Netherlands for five years.

No love lost, and the Dutch are the forgiving kind, of course.. Except.. When it comes to.. Football.. Ouch..

Football, not soccer, as our Beckham-loving neighbours in the US call it; football is a whole different story. The Germans have the reputation for being a solid, yet uninteresting team and seemingly capable of growing in form during a tournament. The Germans won the European and World Cup a bazillion time this way: being superior and still bore the fuck out of the stadium crowd. Almost arrogantly proud of making the watching of two dung beetles copulating a more interesting event than watching German football.

Now the Dutch weren’t that good at football early on, but the Golden Age started in the seventies, with an always to be unnamed team from Amsterdam beating the crap out almost every team in Europe. The level of quality was incredible and it got Us into the finals of the World Cup in 1974, against Germany.. In Germany.. Google what happened, willya?

I didn’t actually experience that tournament cause I was a bit too young. But when I came over in ‘79, it took me less than a month to understand the fact that the Dutch lost that final and that the Dutch people felt cheated and pissed off with that result. In my later teens I discovered that for the Dutch, that defeat almost seemed to mean more to them than the whole five year of German occupation. I can imagine how that felt; it reminded me of the first time I saw the Dutch beat Curaçao at baseball: an unacceptable wrongness..

Anyways, in ‘88 there was a small renaissance in Dutch football and the Dutch went back to Germany for the European Cup. I simply can not forget when the Dutch qualified for the finals by beating the Germans; it was as if winning the finals was less important then beating the Germans. We took the bus to Rotterdam to celebrate this double victory and I distinctly remember shouting in a drunken euphoric haze that We defeated the Krauts [Dutch variant: moffen].

First off, who’s We? Bottom line is that even with a Dutch passport, there will never be a We/Us situation. I can belong to Us if I do well in sports or entertainment and keep my nose clean.
If I make one mistake or transgression, it’s over: I’m not one of Us anymore, back to being one of Them. That’s how I felt, I may be harsh and wrong, but that’s part and parcel of not ever really being one of Them.
To quote the wise humanist T. Pratchett:
Uhm, I’m not one of them. I’m one of me.. :)

Second, what the hell did the Germans ever do to me? I wasn’t there during the WW’s nor had I really experienced the WC Finals of ‘74. So why should I be so hateful against the Germans?
Part of the answer: because it’s football and therefore not a rational thing; during an event like this, people forget their little differences and Everybody is one of Us.
Another part of the answer: because it’s the German football team – one of the most boring teams ever, that almost always seem to grow in strength through mediocrity during a tournament.
It’s always a great joy to see creativity beat mediocrity, even on this level of social interaction.

A bit of Orange, always nice..

References (in random order of importance):
Wikipedia icon Football World Cup 1974
Wikipedia icon Football European Cup 1988
Wikipedia icon Kaiser Wilhelm II
Wikipedia icon That unnamed club from Amsterdam (ahem..)

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Written By: frenchy on December 28, 2007 No Comment

Didn’t make as many shots as I wanted this year, but we’ll see how next year ‘ll go.. My favorite pix of 2007, enjoy!

Big thanks to the people at:
FlickrHelp and
Blogger Templates

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Written By: frenchy on December 2, 2007 7 Comments

The Tradition
In the month of December the Dutch celebrate a very old tradition: Sinterklaas.
Now, the culturally correct description of the whole Sinterklaas thing can be read here. But I thought it’d be nice if I added some of my own flavor..

A short summary
Sinterklaas is a catholic bishop (originally from Turkey) who visits the Netherlands from Spain on a yearly basis to bring gifts for deserving children. Deserving meaning Good, undeserving meaning Bad, and kids in the latter category are put in sacks for a return trip to the Iberian land. This Sinterklaas guy has a group of assistants, helping him out with the distribution of the gifts, the candy and sack-handling of the kids (yes, these words are put in that particular order, deal with it..) These assistants are called Zwarte Piet or Black Pete and as you may have guessed are of African/Morish descent.

Sinterklaas’ original itinary
- arrival in Holland somewhere halfway November by ship: a nationally televised event.
- December 5th: S’klaas creeps across rooftops distributing presents to the children; also the evening of unpacking S’klaas gifts
- December 6th: actual birthday of S’klaas

December 5th is the national Dutch evening of social coherence. The majority of people rush back home from work to go and celebrate the Sinterklaas happening with the family and/or friends. Can’t/won’t describe the whole setup of such an evening but I can tell you that most of the time people sit together to unpack all the gifts; in my case during my years as a student I can remember a lot of gluhwein, but that’s a totally different and banished tradition.

On Curaçao
As kid I was into the whole S’klaas thing. It was also celebrated at school and that’s were things kinda got screwy for me. The school I attended had a lot of middle class Dutch kids and I remember the celebration on the schoolyard where I’d encounter some of those Dutch kids dressed up as Zwarte Piet… White people putting on shoeshine is always a disturbing sight, even if you’re a seven-year old black kid.
As in Holland, you had many different S’klaas parties you could go to. This meant that S’klaas had the magic property of being at all the different locations at the same time! Or, more logically, you accept the logic of assistant-S’klaases: they’re there at the parties, but the real S’klaas is in charge of the whole distribution of the gifts. This also meant that sometimes on Curaçao you’d be at a party where the S’klaas was a black guy and that too kinda messed with the mind.

Zwarte Piet
Ooooooh, every friggin’ year the Dutch are confronted with the Zwarte Piet issue: is it still okay to portray black people in that way? As assistants/lackeys (but not, heaven forbid, slaves) of the white man in charge? Still okay to use black people as a way of scaring children into Good behaviour? Etc.
Here’s David Sedaris‘ take on the whole thing from an outsider’s perspective.

Please take note: the Dutch are the formal owners of the term political correctness (by a UN decree, somewhere after the Indonesian Situation); they’ve embedded it in their culture before anybody had even thought of the term.
A coupla years back, this resulted in the introduction of Rainbow Petes (now THAT’s a cool cowboy name) in different colors just to refrain from insulting people’s sensitivities while further strengthening the negative association with the ‘color’ black. Another creative one was that the Petes would be messy from going down the chimneys, but that wouldn’t work if you put the Rainbow Pete at work in a chimney, right?
So this discussion keeps on going ad nauseum, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

But there are those who rebel against all this moral soul-searching claiming cultural tradition as defense, not wanting to do anything about the issue and tired of defending themselves and their beautiful tradition. Fine by me, I just wish I had my own cultural tradition where I can portray white people as my lackeys and use that tradition as my defense. Hey, I can use their own traditions against them: have you ever seen Dutch people during carnival? Funny.. But not nearly enough compensation.

My own opinion? I’m a very lazy bastard: as long as you don’t get me agitated, you’ll probably survive. Dutch people ask me if I’m offended by this issue and that’s what really gets me irritated: I’m not here to help you ease your mind about this shituation. Nor am I here to start complaining about this every fucking year. You don’t need my approval. You can keep your tradition for your kids, but don’t expect me to like it and don’t ever expect me to act as if I like or accept it.
To quote the great poet: Homey don’t play that..

Back On Curaçao
The whole S’klaas arrival by steam boat also happened on Curaçao, while everybody just knew that he’d arrived in Holland at the same time!! That, combined with the fact that there seemed to be more than one S’klaas (and in more than one color) and the white kids painted in black, prompted me to ask my dad for some explanation.
He looked at me, an 8-year old with a 60-year old frown, and told me that S’klaas didn’t exist and that we’d be celebrating Santa next year.

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Written By: frenchy on November 11, 2007 3 Comments

Like every other country in this beautiful world, the Dutch have their own set of snack food delicacies. The snack culture for many years used to be simple: the typical Dutch family would cook and eat their rather bland dinner five days a week. The other two days the Dutch nuclear family got take out food: one day would be Chinese food and the other day they’d get their real snack fetish on, fried potatoes. Let’s have a look at this last event.

These potatoes would be like french fries but twice as thick and four times as greasy. And in avoidance of a one-sided meal, some form of meatstuffs would be added, I’ll try and describe that later on.
Remember the Pulp Fiction movie? The dialogue between the Travolta and Jackson characters about the Dutch and french friesYoutube Logo? The Travolta character explains that the Dutch don’t eat their fries with ketchup, they prefer mayonnaise. This is all true, but there’s more to it that just mayonnaise.
The typical Dutch snack counter sells a whole range of toppings for your fries. Mayo, ketchup, satay sauce, the weird sauce the Germans like to put on their sausages (keep it clean..), called Curry and the mixes..
Ordering a Patatje Speciaal or Fries with Special Toppings would get you mayo, ketchup and diced onions. A Patatje Oorlog or Fries At War? That’s mayo, satay sauce, hold the onions.

Sidestep to the satay sauce. The island group of Indonesia used to be a colony of the Dutch and this added something to the culinary experience of the Dutch back then and it still does. It added a sense of taste, because most Dutch food will make the world’s most boring person seem interesting. One of the products the Indonesian cuisine brought to this country was satay sauce. Now go google all the differrent versions of satay sauce recepies and just accept that the Dutch idea of satay sauce was based on peanut butter. That’s why satay sauce is also know here as peanut sauce. And now, imagine some french fries with mayo and thick peanut sauce. Back to the story..

So now we have an idea of what the Dutch put on their fries. What kind of meatstuffs usually accompanies the fries? Hmm.. The Lost-in-Translation effect is gonna hurt this part of this writing, so bear with me.
We got frikandel, kroket, bamihapje, nasihapje, halve kip, bereklaauw, mexicano, the list is endless and endlessy gross. Everything’s deep fried in enough oil to make the OPEC guys a bit nervous. And I used to be a big fan of the stuff.. Heheh..
A frikandel is the ultimate pseudo-proto-sausage consisting of the original Mystery Meat. In this case it’s also a mystery best kept unsolved because you just do not want to know what they’re putting into that thing. The kroket is harder to explain, I’ll check if there’s any.. Yep, found it, have a read here. The bami hapje and the nasi hapje are variants on the kroket, the fillings are different and suggest an oriental flavor, while just as the kroket, the deep frying process takes away any flavor from the product. That’s why people often eat these two snacks with some sambal.

Sidestep to the sambal. The second great food enrichment achievement for the Dutch was sambal, also from Indonesia, a spicy hot sauce made of chili peppers from Hell. The sambal is also used and prepared in Suriname, the second Lost Colony of the Dutch. Back to the meatstuffs..

Can you imagine? One day in the week the nuclear Dutch family wouldn’t cook the bland and boring stuff, they’d go the the snack counter and go get the fries and meatstuffs with all the delicious toppings!! Interesting combo: a Patatje Oorlog with a Frikandel Speciaal and some extra sambal..
Oh, and the snack counter? They sell much more than just the aforementioned gastronomical wonders. They got hamburger-like thingies, with crap quality buns. A typical Dutch delicacy is the Broodje Bal, that’s a round ball of hamburger meat the size of a small country that’s been sucking up oil for hours and served with again those crap quality buns.

If you think I’m too hard on this cuisine, remember, I ate most of this stuff during my teens and my student days. Somehow, I just got fed up with it and switched to many other unhealthy alternatives, because the Dutch snack culture’s expanded to a large range of non-Dutch varieties. But that’s another story..

For a fact: the best fries in Europe are those incredible Belgian fries, ask any Dutch person and you’ll get a very short and irritated confirmation ;)

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Written By: frenchy on October 18, 2007 No Comment

Sorry, for the downtime on my site: problems with one of the plugins I use for showing my flickr photos. I’ve used a temporary fix, and thanks to the quick service from the people the site’s back up again!!

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