A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Do you know your Unox from your Calve? Know the difference between Albert Heijn and Douwe Egberts? Fake it until you make it as a real Nederlander…
It is the deep midwinter, the snow is deep and crisp and even. The canals have frozen over, and children skate merrily across the ice. Adults and children alike then hurry home to warm kitchens filled with the dreamy smell of hot erwten (pea) soup, with wholesome chunks of sausage that will warm you to your toes. Or, at least that is the nostalgic image, brought to you by Unox, purveyors of that famous Dutch pea soup and those famous smoked sausages! Check out this piece of 90s nostalgia:
Unox sells a range of wintery products, but are probably most famous for their pea soup. They are also the sponsers of the Nieuwjaarsduik (New Year’s dive) at Scheveningen. Each New Year’s morning, thousands of brave (crazy?) revelers gather on the frozen sands of Scheveningen, put on bright orange Unox hats and scarves, and run into the blisteringly cold North Sea. They are rewarded with a warm bowl of Unox pea soup. What a way to start the new year, and what an amazing marketing ploy by Unox. Take a look at this video of the 2012 dive- a sea of Unox-orange.
Calve make Dutch peanut butter. “But…we have peanut butter in my country…that’s nothing special,” I hear you cry, as did I when I first arrived here. But no, anyone here will tell you, this is Dutch peanut butter, it’s different, and the best peanut butter in the world, ever. And don’t even think of trying to save money by buying the supermarket brand instead! Like Heinz tomato ketchup in the UK, Calve peanut butter has that aura of superiority, although whether it is valid or not is perhaps a different story… And did you know that the Dutch for peanut butter is pindakaas, which means peanut cheese?!
Calve is, like Unox, a bit of an institution in the Netherlands. It’s adverts are aimed at parents who want their kids to grow up looking super cute and playing on sports teams (who knew that peanut butter is the key to success?) Cue another wintery image of a lone blonde boy skating on a frozen canal, stopping for a snack of creamy peanut butter spread thickly on thick white bread. Another piece of winter nostalgia, brought to you by Calve!
Dutch food has a reputation for being quite unhealthy (think deep fried cheese, deep fried bitterballen, deep fried unspecified meats), and breakfast does not subvert the stereotype. Take a slice of bread, toast it if you like, maybe smear a bit of butter on it, and then cover it in sugar sprinkles! These sprinkles are essentially the sugar decorations you put on top of cakes, and come in as many varieties.
The king of sprinkles is De Ruijter. Again, while there are other brands, devotees will tell you that they are not a patch on De Ruijter. Choose your breakfast-time sugar fix: bright orange and yellow fruit sprinkles, pretty pink strawberry, or powdery aniseed. Chocolate lovers are spoiled, for not only are there milk, white and pure chocolate varieties, they also come in different shapes, from the small pellets to the almost elegant curls. De Ruijter has cornered the “luxury” end of this market, and you can indulge in small boxes of 60% dark chocolate curls.
(Part 2 coming soon!)