Saturday 5 August 2006

A Dog's Dinner from your Grocery

No Dutch on my palate

I have not been one to heap praise on Dutch cuisine, but it is not fault of the Dutch, the fact is a national dish depends on the kinds of crops, ingredients and animals for food that can be obtained local to that region.

Potatoes, pulses and members of the cabbage family feature in many dishes which are either dark or bland compared to colourful Mediterranean or Tropical dishes.

Like the English, many cuisines have come from the sub-continent to augment local dishes; the English variety of Indian cooking is probably the most eaten kind of food in England, here exotic tastes from Indonesian are very prominent.

There was a time I had a salad full of grit which I took back to the chef, rather than replace the salad with a fresh one, he took one leaf ate it and the declared the salad gritless, you could imagine my amazement.

Food snobs they are not

However, that exemplifies the difference in care and attention that the Dutch have towards food compared to the French, Italians or even Spaniards.

Furthermore, I have the advantage of a supermarket on the ground floor of my apartment block. For light shopping, I take down a bag, for serious shopping, I wheel the trolley home – living on the seventh floor of an apartment block which has a supermarket should count for something.

Albert Heijn is the biggest supermarket chain in the Netherlands as part of the Ahold group of companies. There have been lots of improvements over my last 6 years of residence in the Netherlands – shelves are better stacked and labeled, you rarely find out-of-stock stuff, tills get opened when queues get longer, they have not gotten to a bagging service yet.

Unfortunately, what has gone into a decent and organized shop floor has been lost in food psychology.


I picked up a pack of meat – heart cubed for stews – I use it for pepper soup and an assortment of stew recipes. Apart from the label signifying what it was, it had another sticker – (Dier Voeding) – Pet food in Dutch.

Don’t get me wrong, I would suppose most human food is dual purpose, that is, it can be served to both humans and pets, but that should be an unwritten prerogative of the pet owner.

One other explanation might be, the cost of gourmet pet food might be so high that preparing you own pet food is a cost saver, and there are humans whose work it is to taste the edibility of pet food. That, said, this would have better be put in the pet corner and not amongst food for human-beings.

To put that dual-purpose label on food in a supermarket beggars belief – need I say more? I think we can conclude the Dutch have no clue about the concepts of food psychology; this is the fundamental of good cooking, if you could get that from Dutch ingredients.

Albert Heijn have now done the Dutch a disservice, but, if it is acceptable to the Dutch, I would not complain, basically, anything labeled dual-purpose like that, is for the lowest common denominator – in this case, I would not be eating pet food.

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