Enter any HEMA cafe, there is always at least one person digging into a piece of discounted appeltaartje along with a cup of tea.
The scene is as Dutch as the tall gentlemen riding their bikes on footpaths. Every autumn, even as the whole globe goes into a pumpkin frenzy borrowed from the US, the Dutch shrug at pumpkin spice and give their hearty apple pie a knuffle instead.
New neighbours? Greet them with an appeltaartje. Supermarket sale? Be sure to stock up on apple pie (frozen is better). Classic Dutch day? Bake some love — appeltaartje.
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Which came first: the appel or the aardappel?
Holland is obsessed with its appels and aardappels (potatoes). But it is rather like the classic question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, the appel or aardappel?
I spent an hour in Albert Heijn exploring this cultural phenonemon. Vegetable names are nothing like their English counterparts, but the fruit names might well be unidentical twins.
Apple is appel, pear is peer, melon is meloen.
Ultimately I realized that apple is the undisputed king, for even oranges are named after them. Consider these names:
- orange — sinaasappel,
- pomegranates — granaatappel, and
- potatoes — aardappels.
An apple by any other name
The appel boom (tree, so yes, pun intended), is quintessentially Dutch.
Perhaps no one has exploited apples as much as these people. Apple pie is nothing unique, but has the world heard of appelbollen, appel kruimel vlaai and appelflappen? They’re flaky, taste sweet, cinnamony, buttery, and… all apple pie in disguise!
Moving on to another level of apple-love, who else could have put apples to a non-culinary use? Fresh apple deoderant spray, anyone? Or toilet freshener that leaves an apple aroma? Apple gets flattered in the Dutch kitchen, toilet and even under Dutch arms!
The a-peeling potato
Imagine my delight (as a vegetarian who abhors most vegetables) to discover that classic Dutch cuisine glorifies the soul food of picky eaters: the humble potato.
Of course, I still won’t drown my fries in a mixture of mayonnaise but I can live on friet for the rest of my life. Mashed potatoes, smashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, creamed potatoes are all music to my ears.
A dozen varieties of earthy potatoes and a dozen other ways of eating them — that is the luxury Holland has to offer.
Mr Appel and Mrs Aardappel
The Dutch are also famous for the brilliant (or not) marriage of their two great loves — apples and potatoes. Are you ready to scarf down:
- Hete bliksem — mashed apple and potatoes,
- Appel-aardappel salade — apple and potato salad,
- aardappel en appel met rode kool — apples and potatoes with red cabbage
Some toddlers (and adults) go a step further and use apple sauce as a condiment for their fries!
Of course, there are some who argue that Dutch cuisine is just a collection of readymade supermarket meals and deep-fried meat.
Do you share the Dutch love for potatoes and apples? Tell us in the comments below!
Feature Image: DutchReview