The first guests come trickling in at 20.00 hours, which is not exactly Dutch dinner time, but it is during the weekend so an exception can be made. For starters Bart serves blocks of cheese and cervelat with pieces of pickles, stuck on cocktail sticks with flags. At a quarter to nine the last guests show up and we can sit down at table. We are served a ‘stamppot ensemble’ featuring three different kinds of ‘stamppot’: curly kale, hodge-podge and sauerkraut.
For readers who have just arrived in the Netherlands and are unacquainted with the famous ‘stamppot’: it is a mashed pot of potatoes and vegetables. In principle you can make endless variations, but potatoes with carrots and onion (hodge-podge) potatoes with curly kale and potatoes with sauerkraut are the three most popular varieties. Fried bacon, smoked sausage and bratwurst are present on the table as well.
There soon arises a discussion about the exact customs. Bart puts vinegar and black pepper on the table, ingredients that were never missing at his parental home when there was ‘stamppot’ on the menu. One of the editors does not know this custom, but wonders whatever happened to the piccalilli, for curly kale without piccalilli is totally inconceivable! At first everybody is taking modest portions, but it does not take long before the plates are filling up with the three varieties of ‘stamppot’.
Damian Nadales Agut, a PhD student of Mechanical Engineering who comes from Argentina, has a preference for ‘the white one’, meaning the sauerkraut. The dessert is also kept entirely in style: warm treacle waffles with vanilla custard and creamy ice. Warm treacle waffles is a novelty for the visitors and is found to be very scrumptious. Everybody lingers at the table, sampling coffee, tea and chocolate spice nuts. Surely winter cannot start in a more genuinely Holland manner! (HB)