The Netherlands

Culinary or Eating Custom in The Netherlands

European, or in particular, Dutch, have very different eating custom from us, Indonesian people. My previous eating habit in Indonesia consisted of three times of meals a day, a breakfast, a lunch, and a dinner (and some snack in brunch or even late supper, if you wish). Breakfast (for me as a student, not a normal family) usually consisted of a glass of milk or even instant noodle if I had time to cook it and was not in a hurry. Having finished morning classes, I usually rushed to cafeteria with my friends (Hey I remember our small canteen next to our lab in Chemical Engineering campus Diponegoro Univ) to grab some food there. And what I mean by food is an actual plate of complete dish. It consists of rice, cooked vegetables (Indonesian cuisine has so many varieties of cooked vegetables), and protein source for instance, soybean tempeh, meat, fish, or eggs. We usually add some fried snacks to enhance the eating experience (or to add some crispy tastes). Indonesian lunch is very different from Dutch lunch, since here in Holland I just only meet a lot of varieties of sandwiches or toasts, bunches of them sold at my campus cafeteria. Dutch normally don’t have ‘heavy meal’ or ‘warm meal’ for lunch, since they already wrapped all meaty stuffs inside a bun or toasts, ready for take-away or for accompanying your sitting and chatting time at lunch break. From this lunch difference, I can extract one philosophy in thinking between Dutch and Indonesian. Interested? Read more.

Indonesian culinary or eating custom is more or less influenced by our Indonesian thinking or way of life. Why so? Because eating, as our primordial habit dates back to the early stage of Homo sapiens existence, has a similar root of serving its basic function, which is fulfilling our hunger or needs of meal. Why people around the world have distinctive eating habit or cuisine is –to be simplified—something to do with particular way of life and culture. Culture, as we know it, is greatly influenced by way of life. That’s my argument. Westerners used to think that lunch time is a short period of break which is frequently undertaken in a hurry, inside the trams, buses, or trains. That’s why finding a complete dish is unnecessary.

Okay, back to the Indonesian eating habit. In the era of New Order regime by late President Soeharto, there was once known a policy on our eating habit, called as ’empat sehat lima sempurna’ (I can’t simply translate it into English, since the greatness of the philosophy itself). For non-Indonesian speaking readers, ’empat’ means ‘four’, ‘sehat’ means ‘healthy’, ‘lima’ means ‘five’, and ‘sempurna means ‘perfect’. Well, it means Indonesian eating custom should be derived from that policy for four components as main dishes and milk as another component to make it five. Four components of our serving are carbohydrate sources (mainly rice), vegetables either cooked or raw, animal protein or fat, and fruits. From these components, a healthy combination including carbo, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals, is expected to be our intake. Milk, on the other hand, is not compulsory, that’s why we call it five to be perfect, but four is already healthy. In the era, milk was still considered as sophisticated drink since it was so expensive that only rich people could afford it. Milk nowadays is a primary diet in Indonesia. But, strangely, milk is still considered as expensive drink. I don’t know whether it has to deal with lack of cows or dairy factories (weak reason) or political impose to preserve those costly image of milk for some economical justification of dairy products. I myself wonder why milk is still considered as expensive drink for Indonesian at present.

As a conclusion of elaboration above, Indonesian people nowadays still conform to the rule of preparing a meal, and that explains why we usually have ‘heavy or warm meal’ even at lunch. This distinguished way of preparing a lunch in Dutch culture shocked me at first, being a part of my cultural shock. I, who usually had complete or warm dishes at lunch, have to substitute them with toasts or sandwich. For Indonesian, having lunch with breads is considered as not a complete meal. Thus, we sometimes don’t feel satisfied with our a la Dutch lunch, we need heavier meal to feel our stomach full. ^_^. However, adaptation really needs some time to work. Now I feel no different with my lunch. I get used to eating sandwiches for lunch and I feel full and energized.

And the last part of meal analysis is dinner. Indonesian and Dutch share something in common now, since both of these people prepare warm meal for dinner. I think it’s just different menu, but takes the same serious preparation. Well, I don’t know what to say as a closing for my post. Oh yes, I almost forgot it. I made a list of traditional Dutch food I’ve ever tasted.

  • Uncooked herring, yes, it was served raw
  • Fish, including kibbeling, lekkerbek, and kibbeljouw. All were fried.
  • Pannenkoeken
  • Poffertjes
  • Ewrten soep (note on this specialty: it’s said that if you could stand a spoon on the centre of the container perpendicularly, it means the soup is thick enough and is considered delicious)
  • Croquettes
  • Frikandel
  • Boterhamworst
  • And my favourite: Patat!!!!! I always love deep-fried potatoes ^_^

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