Tuesday, July 3

Say Cheese!

Think Holland, and several iconic notions should come to mind. Windmills, of course, wooden shoes, tulips. Second round thoughts brings out chocolate and cheese. Now, if your thoughts don't register cheese when you think of The Netherlands, you obviously require some gentle education. Cheese is Holland's claim to cuisine fame, and rightly so. This is a dairy country rich in history and tradition of cheese making. And cheese is what I want to talk about today.

Oh, Cheese,
Wonderful cheese,
Marvellous cheese,
Glorious cheese.*

I love cheese.

Twice each week, Leiden hosts a market in the city center. I have yet to find it's equal in size and charm nearby my home in The Hague. Open stalls filled with foods, flowers, clothing, fabric, sundries, snacks and just nearly anything you can imagine. It's a grand affair filling both sides of the canal streets behind city hall.While we were living in Leiden, I quickly made it a habit to shop at market on Saturdays, using the day to gather fresh produce, flowers, nuts and yes, cheese. In addition, often on a Wednesday you could find me strolling the streets and combing the scaled down market stalls for a rotisserie cooked chicken, or some fresh fish for dinner. I love shopping at market. I love the sights, the sounds, the smells, and certainly, the savings.

It was at the Leiden market we found our favorite Dutch cheese. Sold from a red-awning stall, it is called Assumburger and as far as I can tell is farmed locally, marketed and sold only at open markets such as Leiden's. I have searched the cheese shops, the grocery stores and other village markets and have not tripped across it again.

So I still travel to Leiden's market on a regular basis, just to fetch this cheese. I don't mind the extra bit of travel to get my hands on it, because, well, for one thing, this is who sells it to me:

Answer honestly, wouldn't you travel to Leiden to be waited on by such a one as this?

No matter. I would.

And I do.

However, whether he or one of the other guys assists me, I place my order "A kilo of Assumburger please" and he expertly rolls the wheel from the shelf and places it upon the cutting table.

First he carves a small piece from the block and extends it on his knife offering me a taste. I never refuse.

Then without a moment's hesitation slides the cutting wire into place estimating the measure and slices through the paraffin shell downward through the soft, fragrant cheese.

Quick as you please he tosses the wedge onto the scale and invariably he is right on the mark with its weight. He looks to me for a nod of approval. My face always registers awe over this particular skill.

Lastly, he whisks a special cheese paper from the stack and expertly folds it around my selection, offering it to me with a gentle 'alstublieft'.

I reply with a 'Haartstikke bedankt' for the cheese and the show. He grins.
It gets me every time, and he knows I'll be back. For his smile, sure, but mostly for my cheese.

Oh, Cheese!
Magical cheese,
Wonderful cheese,
Marvellous cheese,
Fabulous cheese,
Beautiful cheese,
Glorious cheese!*

*My apologies to Lionel Bart, the lyricist for Oliver!, for the liberties taken here with his song, but I can't help the thought that if the orphaned boys had Dutch cheese on the menu, they mightn't have been so hungry.


  1. Can't say I blame you at all for making the trip to buy cheese ... from him.

    * I thought the lyrics were from a Wallace and Gromit movie.

  2. Ah, Jami,Jami, Jami...
    Do I need to Broadwaytise you? Pronounce you indoctrinated with lyrics of the Sondheim, Larsen, and the Hammerstein?

  3. Ahhhhh, the cheese! How I love real cheese. And yeah, I'd say the eye candy ain't bad. In fact, of all the cheese stores, I suspect that I would consistently return to that one, too! hahaha.

  4. Nah, not bad at all Brillig. When my sister-in-law was here last summer she dubbed him "Hot Cheese guy". I don't know his real name. I suppose one of these trips to Leiden I should ask.

  5. I just had to stop by and check out my competition in the war over Leslie and wanted to say that I LOVE CHEESE. Me and you...we could be friends. We could ditch Leslie all together and just sit and each cheese together. ;) (Totally kidding, Leslie. I love you.)

  6. Lekker kaas! Lief gai, ook. Both worth the trip, to be sure.

  7. Dat klopt songbird! Hij knap totaal is!
    En lekker kaas, ja, zeker!
    Het is mijn favoriet. Kom je bij mijn 'thuis voor lekker kaas eten?

  8. karly-
    Offering to share food with me will always be a key to my heart. You are in, girl.
    Thanks for coming to check me out.

  9. LOL...cheese looks good.

    Nice post. Cute guy.

    Must remember to come back here.

    Might chocolate be next!????


  10. Cute "Kaasman", but still, don't you miss cheddar? I still haven't found a Dutch cheese that goes well on nachoes,... and nothing beats macaroni and cheese with Velveta (sigh). But I'm afraid the Dutch wouldn't understand! Have you ever sung your "cheese song" for him?!

  11. very educational, and I like your cute cheese-guy. I must forward this over to my daughter, a true cheese lover. Between you and Rebecca James I am hungry again, and it's bedtime here!

    Thank you for sharing the data and all the wonderful photographs.

  12. Hi Jenn- Oh beautiful cheese... it is on the list of the things I already miss the most in Italy. Gorgonzola, fontina, robiola, grana padano... I can still smell it!

  13. um...Jenn? What did you say to him to get him to pose for those photos....?? I bet he didn't know he was going on your blog for a whole lot of crazy women to drool over! hee hee. And if you explained that to him..your Dutch must be very goood.

    heikken ook speekni kkekke kookel (That's my imitation of Dutch - kind of like a child pretending to running-write!)

  14. Yummy cheese guy! Your post made me go look in the fridge and all I came up with is some provolone. Your post makes me miss all of the other Dutch treats that my "Dutch brother" used to send us a Christmas time. One of my favorites was the box of the white powder that tastes like black licorice...I ate it with my banana pudding. There were also the pastel colored sugar sprinkles that were eaten on buttered bread. And the bubble gum that looked like Hot Tamales with the harder candy shell that you bit through to get to the gum.

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane! Have a great day!

  15. It looks a little like Jarlsberger which is my favorite cheese. Although I'm up for discovering a new one.

  16. SMID-
    I have discovered so many new ones here, and there isn't one among them that I would say is a bad one!
    I love this Assumburger though, it's a gouda, with a lighter touch. Lovely.

  17. dd-
    Good idea! Let's talk about chocolate. We'll make it a tasting party!

    I have to agree I do miss Velveeta with Rotel tomatoes mixed in for a perfect nacho dip!

    Yeah, it really is all about the cheese... but just a little bit about my hot cheese guy.

    This will definitely be the #1 miss when we move from here. I foresee much expense in trying to track down quality Dutch cheese once we are no longer in Holland.

    Sorry about that. Would you like some cheese?

    Hahahahaha! That would make my Dutch gooood! I only asked him if I could take photos, I don't know the phrase for "drooling blogging friends".
    I loved your attempt at Dutch! It actually looks pretty good, and by the end of a day here that's about how it sounds to me!

    Welcome! Memory lane is one of my favorite places to play.

  18. Hi! Hopped over from Dana's when I read your guest post. I live in The Hague too! Ik ben ook verslaafd aan kaas, helemaal aan graskaas :)

  19. I just love it when food--and men--are so darn accessible. Pretty racy stuff here, this morning...

  20. I love cheese. And cheese offered to me by a cute guy with a sexy smile just might be heaven.

  21. nadine-
    Welkom! It's always nice to find a new friend, and a local one? Even better. En ja, kaas mijn zwakheid is!


    Dat's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

  22. Outrageous behaviour for a bit of cheese...but great fun all the same.

    Cheers Mark

  23. 'Hartstikke lekker, jouw kaas is de allerbeste van de hele markt', when you say this next time you will get an extra large piece of that marvelous cheese :-)))

  24. How much would it cost for you to ship that here? The Man, not the cheese. Though, I am torn on which is more appealing ... : )

  25. Um (pant) yes. to the cheese cutter. LOL

    And MMMMMM I love cheese.

    Smoked gruyere is my fave, gouda, second fave.

  26. Um (pant) yes. to the cheese cutter. LOL

    And MMMMMM I love cheese.

    Smoked gruyere is my fave, gouda, second fave.

  27. I love Cheese! I also have a collection of photos of the cheeseman in my mother's village in France. At our wedding (not me and the cheeseman, me and the husband) cheese figured prominently - Bazen Haley Blue on the salad and Vermont Cheddar in the mac&cheese. If I could have made an ice cream flavor with it I would have...

  28. Hello,was wondering how much a wheel of the leiden cheese( middle age) would cost in holland. My husband is stopping by on his way back to the U.S. next week.Our priest(a Hollander) asked for some middle aged leiden cheese. A wedge would be good but a wheel much better for my immortal soul.

  29. US V-
    If your immortal soul can indeed be bought for the price of cheese, then it's a deal you probably shouldn't pass on.
    I can't offer you even a good guess for the price on an entire wheel of cheese, but can tell you that cheeses run on average around 10 euros per kilo.

  30. Jenn , Thanks for your quick reply ,the information is very helpful.My husband is on his way home from Iraq next week with a layover in AMS. He's really looking forward to spending somtime outside of the airport and doing some shopping.Any more wisdom on places to shop or places of interest. Any info would be greatly appreciated,Thanks again Christine

  31. USV-
    send me an email and we can echat at length...
    aeinoyou AT yahoo DOT com

  32. Indeed, this cheese is my favorite.I am living 500 meters from that market. And of course every Saturday I go there to buy my "pondje" of Assumburger.

    This is not just a cheese, this is is dutch willingness to produce good product. In my point of view this is just... cheesy gold :)

    Long Life!