You may have noticed a slight slowing of posts lately. Believe it or not, this is because not every day of my life is fascinating. Actually, I take that back. Most days offer at least a glimmer of something special. But it’s not always the stuff that riveting blogs are made of.
This week I’ve been in a little rut and I think it’s mostly over food. When I found myself waxing nostalgic yesterday over photos of things I’d cooked back in Massachusetts (see following photos), I decided it was time to more directly address the problem.
Tipsy Pudding with Mulled Wine Sauce (For once, I would like to point out that mine looks remarkably like the cooking mag picture.) (Secondary point: my brother, not I, possesses the food photography skills in the family.)
I haven’t had a decent kitchen in years (Inman Street 2005). I’ve never had a sky-high budget. But in Massachusetts, I have been realizing, the culinary world was pretty much at my doorstep. I’m thinking of the places I could shop on any given day: Whole Foods, Formaggio Kitchen, Christina’s, Dave’s Fresh Pasta, Sofra (all of these without even venturing into Boston proper), any of the local farmers’ markets that are going on right now. When we left I was feeling kind of frustrated that I couldn’t figure out where to buy raw milk. Here, I am starting from scratch in learning where to find anything. Anything direct from the farmer, locally grown, artisanal, organic, ethnically interesting. I don’t mean that stuff isn’t around, because I did find this one page where you can “adopt” chickens to get free-range eggs (one of the reasons why is u draagt bij aan het geluk van kippe—“you contribute to the happiness of chickens”), but it’s not obvious in little Delft where to begin.
In the center of Delft we’ve got three chain grocery stores (two are the same chain, Albert Heijn; and one C1000). They’re much smaller than your American Stop & Shop, Whole Foods, Pathmark. Not that size makes a good food store, but the scope of ingredients is limited. Vegetables are often prepackaged, so I can’t choose one pepper by touching them all; it’s two in cellophane or else. Meat is decently priced but I don’t have any illusions that it’s local or pasture-raised or whatever. There are some small shops that I like: a Middle-Eastern market, a produce stand near the Oude Kerk, an Italian deli where I think they are completely tired of my knowing neither Italian nor Dutch. There’s a huge weekly market, but again I’m not totally navigating it right. The produce I’ve found doesn’t seem very local, there are vendors selling leggings, and at least once someone has attempted to up-charge me because, presumably, of my ignorant English.
Some online hunting took me to various expat forums. (There’s a lot of e-space devoted to people wondering where they can get American or British brands of food product, but that’s not exactly what I’m missing.) People say if you’re from the US or UK, you just have to adapt to less choices here. However, I am in a pretty small town, and larger cities like den Haag and of course Amsterdam have broader options if you know where to look. I have resolved to start exploring, and today I made my first foray: to Gouda, which was going to be the subject of this post, but I’m realizing that I’m actually going to ramble about food for a while and post about Gouda tomorrow.
So, to recap, I identified the frustration of not knowing where to find good food to cook. Then I identified stress about keeping the food budget under control, since we are still figuring out our Euro-based finances. Then I identified the amount of time it has been since I have really cooked:
Three months since the movers came and took all my kitchen things away in boxes. Spices. Canisters. Measuring implements. All-Clad. Knives. Cloth napkins. Everything.
Then we slept on a futon mattress with nothing in the house, then stayed with family for a month, and now we’re here with a minimally fitted kitchen waiting to move into a long-term apartment situation so the movers can deliver our stuff. Cooking is a major creative outlet for me, and I realized yesterday that I have been deprived of total self-expression in this area for three complete months.
No wonder I’m in a food rut.
But all is not bleak. I have a quest now, and that quest is to seek out and prepare good food. Because I like to make stuff, and we both like to eat. And there you have it.
Coming soon, food quest 1: Gouda, city of cheese.