Friday, February 16

To Market, To Market

20 August 2005

Shopping in The Netherlands is an interesting experience. (Okay, let’s say it like it is: EVERYTHING in The Netherlands is an interesting experience) This is NOT the land of sprawling Wal-marts and Super Targets. The stores are quite small and each is specialized. Just around the corner from our house is a shopping center, strip mall style, with a variety of shops. There is the Albert Heijn where you can do your grocery shopping, a post office, a butcher shop, a flower shop, a pharmacy, a cheese shop, a produce shop, a fish shop, a nut shop, a paper store, and more. There are clothing stores and also the
Hema which is a small department store, very popular here in Holland. Also, restaurants and snack stands. We have discovered the Vietnamese snack stand which serves a yummy Loempia—an egg roll for 80 euro cents. Or the small restaurant/snack bar serves a variety of Dutch fast foods: Kroket, frites, Fricandel, or a simple cheese sandwich.

We shop nearly everyday, because besides being smaller stores, everything is packaged smaller as well. Milk comes in 1 or 2 liter containers and costs 96 euro cents for two liters. It seems that fruit prices are comparable to the US but eggs are more expensive. We bought a pack of 10 on our first trip to Albert Heijn for euro 1,40. Meat prices also seem comparable if not slightly more expensive, though there are many meats which are a complete mystery to me. Even with help translating the labels there are cuts and varieties I have never heard of. The Dutch do eat some pretty wild lunch meats, but I don't suppose they are any more wild than the olive loaf or head cheese I have seen in markets back home. The Dutch however, DO know how to make sweets. One favorite treat is the stroopwafel which is a waffle like cookie with caramel sandwiched in between layers. A package of 10 cookies costs around 99 euro cents. I think you can pick these up at a Starbucks in the States for $1.50 per cookie. I dare say, it's worth every cent.

Open Market comes to the city center here in Leiden on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is a big busy affair with all kinds of things for sale, including clothes, toiletries, trinkets for your home, fabric, and food. Lots of food! Bread stands, cheese stands, meat, treats… you name it, market’s got it! It is said that the frugal Dutch will go to great lengths to save a few cents, and market is generally the place you can count on saving a nickel or two. I love to linger at the market and we really enjoy our weekly outings to shop there. Best treats include fresh fruit samples, Loempia snack trucks, fresh stroopwafel grills and fish stands where they serve a deep fried fish snack called kibbeling. Each trip to market loads us with fresh cut flowers, fresh produce and a kilo or two of cheese, expertly measured and cut then wrapped in paper for storage. Nobody does cheese like the Dutch. It is an absolute tastebud pleasure. Jonge, Belagen or Oude; with spices and nuts or without, it is fantastic.
Man, it's good to live in Holland.

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