Those first few trips to the grocery store will be forever imprinted in my memory…
The Dutch speak charmingly of going to do the shoppingS as the direct translation is from boodschappen, hence the plural in English!
Every shop stocks everything which reminds me of the trading stores in rural areas of South Africa where a litre of milk, loaf of bread or bag of maize meal can be found along side a sewing machine, enamel wear utensils, bolts of fabric and even a cast iron stove – it’s all in the name “General Trading Store”
Peanuts and cheese, bread and coffee, these are Dutch staples. All four of these items are part of Darling’s staples too so it was up to me to see that these provisions were made for the grocery cupboard of our new home. Since Darling was under extreme pressure getting to grips with the new role at the local hockey club and the associated stress of language, systems, ridiculous hours and even more ridiculous expectations, I was in my element of home-maker.
Home making and shopping are the areas that I assume PHD status (ask Darling about my ability to spend money on “essential home stuff”!) so one can just imagine my delight at doing it all over again in a new country with all the lovely different things… and then remind oneself that with the currency differences between ZAR and Euro well, most of the “shoppings” were of the window and the online basket variety only!
However, one has to eat so grocery shopping it was and my desire to please my husband with his favourite comfort foods became my mission from the first shopping trip and continued for the first few weeks until I was literally crying over the apples with a dear elderly lady in the Aldi because it was all so damn confusing and thoroughly overwhelming!!!
WHY could I not find the most basic bread spread in the world, peanut butter??? Every grocery store that I went into and there are numerous in every village, town, city in NL, had not a jar of peanut butter on the shelves because I did NOT want peanut flavoured CHEESE!!!
My confusion came between the butter and the cheese! PindaKAAS is the Dutch name for peanut butter! The locals quickly informed me that virtually anything that is spread on bread is called “kaas”. Butter for bread is called roomboter and is very rarely used on bread as the standard is kaas plakken which are slices of cheese ready for the broodje or toastie – thankfully not the super processed variety of cheese either but the best of the Dutch best: proper CHEESE! Logical to the locals, thoroughly confusing for foreigners!
The other part of shoppingS that I had to adapt to was only purchasing what I could either carry to walk home with or fit into the basket on my bicycle… I came close to an embarrassing bike crash of my own making a couple of times after leaving the grocery store, loaded with all the acties/actions/verkoop that were not on my shopping list – picture the scene: bicycle basket full and heavy, a bag of groceries hanging off each handlebar, swinging precariously, hand bag over my shoulder and one hand gripping a jumbo pack of toilet rolls, wind blowing this hopelessly unbalanced spectacle as I wobbled my way down the cobbled Binnenweg, trying not to bump any parked cars, fellow cyclists or distracted pedestrians – a disaster in the making but a baptism of fire to life in The Kingdom of The Netherlands!