Gourmetten: A ‘gezellige’ evening of classic Dutch dining

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.

Picture-of-gourmetschotel-with-mushrooms-and-meats-frying-in-pans
The simple magic of meat, sauce and wine. Image: Abuzer van Leeuwan/Supplied

Obviously, all families have their own traditions, but there’s a certain amount of similarity with what’s on the menu.

We’ve got:

  • 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?)
Man-sitting-at-table-with-gourmet-grill-and-glass-of-wine-in-hand
This is what Dutch dreams are made of. Image: Abuzer van Leeuwan/Supplied

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?

READ MORE | How to speak Dutch in seven words or less

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.

Abuzer van Leeuwen 🇳🇱
Abuzer van Leeuwen 🇳🇱http://www.abuzervanleeuwen.nl
Founded DutchReview. Rotterdammer living in Leiden. Politics, innovation and epic food-reviews are his thing. Interested in doing anything with DutchReview? Contact him at abuzer[at]dutchreview.com

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11 COMMENTS

  1. […] We have adopted this Dutch holiday practice simply because it’s a great way to gather with family and friends around the holidays. Essentially its tabletop cooking of miniature sized meats with veggies and dips. Packets of pre-cut meat can be bought in most supermarkets which makes it really easy to prepare for this holiday tradition. For a more indepth-look at this form of Dutch ‘cuisine’ I can wholeheartedly recommend you check out this DutchReview article on Gourmetten. […]

  2. The reason it’s so popular is the fact there is little or no preparation necessary. You can buy “gourmet” food all prepared from the supermarket, a couple of bottles sauces and that’s Dutch “gourmet” nothing to do with meaning of the word

  3. […] With the work week in the pocket, Ivar and I headed to Breukelen for family time. Easter weekend’s first stop was Oma’s (grandma’s) house to celebrate her upcoming birthday. Ten of us around the dining table to do some ‘traditional’ Dutch gourmetten. This is where everyone is in charge of making their own meats and veggies on a shared hot plate. It makes for a gezellige time with family (if you want to know more, I recommend this expat-review on the subject). […]

  4. Inadvertenly the Dutch will err their portion estimations on the light side. 20 people for dinner, one small platter will be enough. So it takes forever to heat up and when it does, you get two measly pieces. Typical Dutch dining alright!!!

    • Guess you were visiting the wrong families and/or friends for gourmet 🤣 I’m sorry for you. Better look for other ppl to hang out with 😆
      We always start to heat it before we sit around the table (or we have a nice starter) and there is always too much food (incl meat). Really depends on the host. Maybe you were in the north of NL?

  5. We visited family in the Netherlands in 1981, and Gourmet was a strong tradition even then. We came back to the states with Gourmet cooking sets, making this a favored tradition for every holiday and birthday since. Morning after gourmet breakfast is especially fun. Whip up some pancake batter to go with all the leftover bacon and hashbrowns or Potato Crowns, and you might be at the table again for hours.

    Now if we can just fine more of those mini-spatulas state-side, we would be quite happy.

  6. Most New Years Eve, we do the little pans, hubby is Dutch, we live in Australia, New Years Eve we always celebrate Dutch style, with Ollie Bollen, no fireworks though as it’s summer here.

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