You haven’t celebrated Christmas in the Netherlands properly if you haven’t done gourmetten.
If you’re the foreigner in a relationship and this is your first time visiting your Dutch in-laws, you have a 50/50 chance of walking into a night of gourmetten. Stay calm and read on — it will be fine (and filthy).
What is gourmetten?
Thou shall take a crapload of weird little meat things, ye old little pans, a raclette-like device (gourmetschotel) and an enormous variety of side dishes and sauces. Combine it all and FEAST.
It’s not only at Christmas that the Dutch do gourmetten. Since roughly the ’90s, every ‘special’ night in the months between September and April is good enough to get the greasy old gourmet-device out of the closet and crank it up.
Of course, it’s looked down upon by the high-culture culinary crowd, but most regular Dutch folk consider this relatively new tradition a fitting way to stuff themselves with huge quantities of wine and meat.
The origins of this totally-not-Calvinistic tradition are unclear. Allegedly, two chefs toured the country in the ’70s in order to promote gourmetten to Dutch housewives — originally it was a thing of the Swiss people.
Secretly the meat industry was behind this tour de carne, and it definitely worked. At least when my family does gourmetten, I can safely say that we boost that industry by a few kilos.
What are you eating when you do gourmetting?
The first rule of the Gourmet Club is to never ask what the hell that meat is you’re supposed to be eating. Anyway, the main thing you’ll be eating is cheap baguettes and sauces. So who needs to know?
Because it takes a while to heat the device your mom will continuously warn you about not starting the gourmetten process too soon. So inevitably you will start to devour all the breads and little pots of Duyvis gourmet sauces from those tiny little mysterious bags on the table.
But okay, finally the thing is hot enough and you’ve buttered your little pan. It’s time to tackle this big boy gourmetschotel that mother bought at the Albert Heijn.
Obviously, all families have their own traditions, but there’s a certain amount of similarity with what’s on the menu.
- Little beef steaks (gone in a blink, the Dutch uncle will poach these right at the start of dinner)
- Little chicken fillets (“CHECK IF IT’S COMPLETELY COOKED THROUGH AND BLACK OR YOU WILL DIE FROM SALMONELLA”)
- Little hamburgers (if you’re mother-in-law just chops up a big one then just ditch your partner, you’re better than that)
- Little turkey pieces (might be chicken, best to blacken it)
- Some chopped onions, mushrooms and other veggies (because that makes it healthy?)
- Little slavinken (minced meat rolls with bacon wrapped around them — how can I say anything bad about that?)
Why do Dutchies like it so much?
Haven’t you been reading? There are meat, sauce, and wine everywhere! Besides gluttony, there’s also the upside of messing around with the little sauces, meats, and pans. This way, you can finally avoid having an actual conversation with your relatives about how the Zwarte Piet is just a tradition and people should leave it alone (😖).
Your mother-in-law likes it because she doesn’t have to cook. Dutch people like it because they secretly know there is (at least a little) more to Dutch cuisine than that. So hey! Everybody’s happy, right?
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So what’s the filthy part?
Haven’t you been reading? Again, there are meat, sauce and wine everywhere! That means it won’t be long until someone spills some wine or your brother-in-law lets a huge one rip.
And then there’s the smell. The unmistakable smell of a gourmet party is a mix of nostalgia and a hint of ‘snackbar‘. Do not underestimate it! It will be there for days to come, all your clothes will need some serious cleaning and you better get the good shampoo out for the day after.
Your final verdict?
It’s great! It’s a total slam dunk for the Dutch in the gezellig (cosy) & culinary department. So hug those in-laws if they’re into gourmetten!
What do you think of this Dutch culinary classic? Tell us in the comments below!
Feature Image: Abuzer van Leeuwan/Supplied Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December 2017 and was fully updated in December 2021 for your reading pleasure.