Monday, May 2, 2011

Another Queen's Day

Saturday marked the third Queen's Day (Koninginnedag) I've celebrated in the Netherlands.  While we didn't escape the city and head to the beach like we did last year, we avoided most of crazy fun going on in the center.  We skipped the drunken parties on Queen's Day Eve and avoided the throngs of Holland's  orange-clad youth living it up in Museumplein.  Instead, Niek and I got up and enjoyed coffee on our balcony like the totally civilized adult that we are--or at least pretend to be when the occasion calls for it.  Honestly, I didn't want to waste a gorgeous Saturday morning, and besides it's finally strawberry season.  I bought my first pound of them at the neighborhood market this past week.  They were mostly small, and they were incredibly delicious.  I'm pretty sure they were grown in a hothouse, as most produce here is grown, so I guess it's a stretch to call it strawberry "season."  They were so much more delicious than the strawberries I've been buying from Spain (the California of Europe, as Niek likes to call it).  Paired with croissants, Intelligentsia coffee and a vase of spring's first peonies, you really can't go wrong.

I like to think that the dog agreed with my assessment of the morning, although he is pissed that our new balcony table takes up most of his precious lounging space.  He looks cute enough in this picture, but I think he really wants to give me the finger and push that damn table out of the way.

So I don't think that I have mentioned before that in addition to the crazy amounts of drinking that happen for Queen's Day, the other big activity for the day is setting up huge garage sales.  At first, I was excited about this aspect of the holiday, until I found out that the Dutch are much less selective about what makes it to their rummage sale piles than Americans.  I'm pretty sure most people just collect all the crap that has accumulated in their closet over the past year, set it on a blanket on the sidewalk and hope that someone will give them a Euro or two.  At the end of the day, they pack up all of their stuff in a box, and put it back in their closet until the next Queen's Day rolls around.

If you don't have sidewalk space of your own to claim, which you need to do at least the night before by using tape and chalk to mark your territory, you can head to one of the major selling areas.  Niek and I ended up in Vondelpark, the center of activities for children.  Here, you can buy children's clothing, really old car seats, books, beat up strollers, etc., etc.  
 There were also lots of kids performing musical numbers and tons of homemade carnival game stands.  All of that was very cute, but it was just so crowded.  I think we spent maybe half and hour walking around before our friends' baby felt totally overwhelmed and insisted on taking a break. Good call.
I did not sample any of the homemade delicacies lining any of the stalls.  Apparently, the thing to do is set up your own food stand.  This could be as simple as pancakes or as labor-intensive as loempias (Indonesian egg rolls).  Some guy even had his own cotton candy machine.  Niek told me that I could set up a stand with cupcakes and cookies next year.  That sounds like hell to me, so I think I'll pass.  I did love this boy's enthusiasm for his stacks of pancakes:
After braving the crowds of children and parents in Vondelpark, it was time for the real joy of the day: sitting out on a bar's terrace with a witbier.  Oh, wait, no witbier for me this year.  I comforted myself instead with a kroket sandwich (pulverized meat product that is breaded and fried).  Looking at the picture makes me wonder if a beer might have been the healthier option.  
All in all, a good holiday.  It is really time to get back in the kitchen and start blogging about cooking and food again.  It is, after all, spring.  Maybe I'll even convince Niek that we need to go to the asparagus fields.  Maybe.


  1. Now you've got me thinking forward to the first asparagus of the year (and trying to find white asparagus) in this spring that never really arrives.

    A cotton candy machine's a lot easier to work than making pancakes; it's just a big start-up cost. The idea of having everyone set up their own food booths - why hasn't that taken hold in the US? Hmmm, probably has something to do with lawyers, I'd guess.

  2. Steve, it's true that the cotton candy is less labor intensive. However, who just goes out and buys a big cotton candy machine? Well, I'm sure people do it, I just personally don't know anyone who sees it as a good investment.
    If I could send you white asparagus I would. Take heart...while your spring may be long in coming, at least the warm weather will stick around for the summer. It has a tendency to be nice here in the spring and then rain and get cold in the summer.