A repeated instance of small-scale despair has been taking place each time I’ve gone to the grocery store and can’t for the life of me figure out where to find (or what the Dutch name is for) some staple kitchen product. Say, baking soda. Produce and meats are fairly straightforward. Products where I have to read a label are a whole other story. I wind up crouched on the grocery store floor squinting at some item, pocket Dutch-English dictionary in hand, word in question NOT in the little book, hoping some Dutch grandmother will sense my innate desire to bake something, take pity on me, and offer to help me decipher (hasn’t happened yet).
I left my fully-stocked Massachusetts kitchen with its arsenal of spice jars (not to mention my own plants) and its cabinet of cooking liquids, all accumulated over years of culinary exploration…all unable to be shipped overseas. I passed off most of the supplies to another cooking-inclined friend and sent some spices with the movers (it was too much of an investment not to try). Meanwhile, I’m here in a stark bare kitchen with a bottle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
There’s another American couple we know loosely because they’re finishing up the same track we’re just starting (husband doing a postdoc in the same lab as Tim) and about to head home to a job in North Carolina. So even though we don’t know them well, I feel like we have some bond. They are flying back to the States today and invited us to stop by to adopt some items from their Delft apartment. And I came home with a whole bag of… spices! Things like knoflook and komijnzaad and kruidnagelen and tijm and nootmuskat (garlic and cumin seed and cloves and thyme and nutmeg… it all starts to make sense once you see the translations).
Every day there are little things that are discouraging: Buying what I’m sure is baking soda, only to discover it’s self-rising flour. Getting to the train station just as the train we want pulls away. Everything in the country being closed on Mondays. But then there are these surprises, like a bag full of spices on the most beautiful summer morning.