And while eating lunch in the Netherlands might be a culture shock, there’s nothing quite like sitting down for a nice dinner only to discover that everyone around you is furiously mushing their food with a fork.
As you sit there wondering what’s gotten into them, rest assured that what you’re witnessing is merely a quirk that combines quintessential Dutch efficiency and culinary traditions: prakken.
What is it?
Prakken is the action of mushing food (usually the trifecta of potatoes, meat, and cooked veggies) with a fork after it’s been served up on your plate. 🍴 It’s a common practice around the Dutch dinner table, especially during the winter months.
But while looking at a plate of brownish mush after a long day isn’t exactly what we’d call a cure for the seasonal depression, the dishes typically associated with prakken are warm, hearty meals — that may just thaw your prejudices towards all the mushing (emphasis on may 😅).
Mushing dinner foods is such a cultural phenomenon that there even are two words for it: prakken and stampen.
While prakken is something performed at the dinner table, stampen is done in the kitchen. Namely by mushing together various combinations of potato, meat, and vegetables into the wintery stables of stamppot, hutspot, and boerenkool.
Why do they do it?
Is it just a sign of Dutch efficiency taking its seat at the dinner table or are there deeper reasons behind all the mushing?
It turns out that the first stamppot was described in a cookbook around 1880 (and, incidentally, Van Gogh’s work ‘The Potato Eaters’ was painted just five years later) so there is a long history behind hearty winter meals in the Netherlands.
Prakken, however, didn’t become a widespread practice until the 30s when the financial crisis forced hard-pressed Dutchies to eat more potatoes.
Nevertheless, what might’ve started as a way to cut the dinner budget quickly established itself as a tradition. Now, some experts on Dutch cuisine even say that the food tasted better when you mush it all together. 🤷♀️
Why is it quirky?
Most people tend to eat their food as it’s served, using a knife and fork or chopsticks (at any length, two pieces of cutlery), so the somewhat forceful show of mushing things with one fork can come as a bit of a shock to internationals.
However efficient, funny, or culinarily enhancing it stays a quirky practice. 😂
Should you join in?
All we have to say is don’t kick it till you’ve tried it!
What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!