No country is perfect. Take Uganda for instance; it has great weather all year round, possibly the best climate in the world, but unfortunately it is spoiled by everything else. Holland is on the opposite end of that scale; quite possibly the worst weather in the world which is offset by one of if not the most liveable spots on the planet.
Except for lunch. The Dutch don’t do lunch, which is unfortunate as I am somewhat of a lunch connoisseur. Dinner is great but lunch is far better. A wonderful lunch in a fine establishment with oodles of wine and other drink is the height of civilization, a rambling 5 hour affair from which you stagger out onto the pavement, hail a taxi and proceed straight to dinner. Or if you’re really on your game while you’re finishing up your lunch you simply inquire of the staff if they would mind changing the tablecloth with a fresh one so you can proceed straight to dinner without even moving.
But all of this is predicated on a proper lunch, one that involves various courses and proper cooked food.
Which brings me to the lunches that they serve in Holland. The Dutch don’t do lunch as we know it in the rest of the civilized world. No matter the class of eating establishment that you enter, from a humble cafe or pub, right up to the best restaurant in town, this is what will be available for you to choose from at lunch:
Bread. The Dutch do bread, a great deal of bread, which is extraordinary when you consider just how bad their bread is. Dutch bread is like a gorgeous 17 year old blonde: light, white, and full of air. Their bread has no texture at all, whereas cross the border into Germany and you get some of the best bread in the world.
The majority of your lunch menu will consist of bread. It will even be under a proud heading of the same name. There will be cheese and ham on bread, for example. This will come to your table surrounded by some sort of salad abomination. You are expected to eat all of it, and the Dutch always do so. Apparently it is bad form to leave something on your plate, no matter how inedible. Shades of the Hunger Winter and all that.
Today I had bread for lunch with pulled pork. After the first mouthful I wished that they had pulled the pork away and just left the bread. There was also some cooked onion and mushroom, but only tiny amounts of these. There was also an enormous jug of peanut sauce which if I had indeed poured it onto my bread and pork would have resulted in peanut sauce soup with bits of salad surprise.
Included in the bread menu will be some sort of burger as well as a club sandwich. These two options will be the closest you will be able to get to leaving the establishment without the risk of expiring with hunger outside on the pavement.
Soup. Every menu will have tomato soup. It seems to be almost the national dish of Dutch lunch. The soup will come with bread. The portion available would be hard pressed to satisfy a sparrow. There will also be a soup of the day. Most of the time this will also be tomato soup, go figure. I don’t even ask what the soup of the day is anymore.
Carpaccio. There will be a carpaccio on the menu, guaranteed. It will also be awful, guaranteed. I don’t really know why there is always an awful carpaccio on every lunch menu in the country but I suspect that it is a local government requirement to get your lunch licence. Perhaps an EU thing that the Italians organised.
Salads. The salads will be large, inadequately dressed, and the individual pieces so large that you will be unable to stuff them into your mouth without looking like a masticating walrus.
Chicken. While there will be numerous offerings of chicken under the bread and salad menu there will also be a guaranteed chicken satay stick option on the menu. Once again I suspect that this is a local government requirement.
There will also be a separate listing for all of the exact same bread items under a heading called ‘Tostis‘. This is simply the aforementioned bread selection stuck in a toaster oven.
That right there is your entire lunch option for The Netherlands. To make matters even worse the restaurant will have a section on the menu labeled ‘Dinner’ which will include everything that you could wish for to have a wonderful lunch. Enormous sirloin steaks with oven baked root vegetables? Not a problem, sir, but only during dinner. Apparently there is some sort of mystical force in the nation’s kitchens which exclude them from operating heavy equipment before 6pm. It is just not possible to get a traditional hot cooked meal for lunch in this country.
Today the good wife and I once again attempted to have a lunch. We weren’t planning on it but we found ourselves outside and away from home at the required hour and we just felt like a bit of overindulgence. Fat chance of that. I have as of this moment formally abandoned any attempts to enjoy lunch in Holland. From now on if I wish to have lunch I will simply cross a border somewhere. Any direction at all because no lunch in Europe can be as bad as what the Dutch dish up.