The Delightful Dutch Dish

How one can cook oneself back into local reality

Artichokes April 24, 2010

Filed under: book,cooking,main course,vegetable — orangepumpkin @ 21:49
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This week, my bike and myself went all the way to the asparagus place I would like to refer to as asparagus heaven. From afar I could see the white asparagus sign wasn’t up yet and I wondered: are there no asparagus to be had? And yes, there were no asparagus to be had. I was so disappointed I cried a little. I was wearing sunglasses so no one could see. You know, it hurt! I called my mum (or she called me, I don’t recall) and I told her there were still no asparagus at asparagus heaven. And she said that she hadn’t found any asparagus for sale near there, either. So we both cried a little. You know, she’d been driving around for ages, looking at suspicious looking humps where -for sure- asparagus were grown. But no one sold them. She asked at the supermarket for Dutch asparagus, and they didn’t have them. The supermarket guy told her that Dutch asparagus were awfully late this year. I also checked my supermarket. They have asparagus from Peru. But since that probably means they’re days old, instead of hours, I refuse to buy them. Otherwise I’d totally buy a bunch and cook them. I’m so asparagus-deprived that the whole Peru-thing seems like a tiny thing that can easily be overlooked. I’m easily persuaded, I know. Anyway, no Dutch asparagus. Anywhere.

Artichoke top cut off

The beauty of a thistle flower

So when I found myself in a greengrocer’s today and they had artichokes at €1.50 a piece (holy crap, that’s expensive) I didn’t check where they were from, I just bought one. Just one. Not five, which -on hindsight- would’ve been better. When I got home I realised that I actually had no idea how to prepare artichokes. I looked in my newest cookbook and they just had a recipe for artichoke hearts. Which actually means canned artichokes. You know, no matter how much I love my new cookbook, how on earth am I supposed to can my fresh artichoke? I don’t know these things! So I checked my ’50’s Dutch cookbook (revised version from the 2000’s). It had very little to say about artichokes. Seriously? Is this another joke? Doesn’t anyone eat these things anymore? Are they not cool enough for the general population? Are my fellow 20-something’s this deprived of all life that they don’t even buy fresh artichokes anymore? What kind of life am I living anyway? Should I abandon my €1.50 artichoke and see if McDonalds is willing to make me some french fries? Can I get American sauce with that? That’s what it’s called, I have no idea if it’s anything American, but whatever. I opened the kitchen cabinet that contains all my cookbooks. And I thought to myself: yes, this would be a perfect time for that! ‘That’ being my mum’s copy of ‘The Joy of Cooking‘ by Irma and Marion Rombauer. They’re American, you know. ‘That’ also referring to my mum’s advise when she gave me her copy ‘on loan’ (which is permanent, sorry mum, I’ll read the recipe’s to you when you need anything, but I can’t give it back, not anymore!). Her advice was this: ‘If you ever have anything that you’re not exactly sure about how to prepare, this book will provide the answer in a heartbeat.’ I listened intently while turning the ancient pages (this copy being printed in 1974, probably a wedding gift). ‘Remember that time I found a dead rabbit?’ (my mum saw it being hit by a car) Oh yes mum, I do! ‘Well, this book provided all the information on skinning and preparing rabbit!’ I remember that too! Dad with my siblings bent over the rabbit, cutting her (she had a uterus with babies inside) open, telling them what they were looking at. It was very much The Anatomy Lesson of dr. Nicolaes Tulp. My dad being that Tulp-guy, me being Rembrandt, because the picture is still very vivid and detailed when I think about it. Anyway, I took my mum’s copy home, and leafed through it some more, and I thought about making some of the recipes one day. Honestly, I wanted to be Julie & Julia. Unfortunately my name is nothing like Irma or Marion, and besides, they were together already. And besides that, I’m a horrible cook.

My copy of The Joy.

So I grabbed the book off the shelve and I looked for ‘artichoke’ in the index. And boy oh boy, did these ladies do artichokes! My other cookbooks didn’t have that many references to ‘artichoke’, but this one did. Page 256 is the first hit, and I stayed there. I cooked the artichokes just like that. Exactly like that. (I’m not sure if I would be violating copyright if I would list the recipe here, so I’m not going to, I will just tell you how good it is) And since I was quite bored, and the cooking of artichokes apparently takes 45 minutes, I started tweeting about it, also here, here, and here. I would never have thought of cooking the artichokes with other vegetables. I just wouldn’t. I’m probably too stupid. I was worried there was no salt in the recipe (I mean, every recipe has salt. I left some out, once, and it just totally ruined it. ‘It’ was bread. I threw it out. Saltless bread is inedible.) But I stuck to it. I persevered. Who am I to judge my new BFF’s Irma and Marion? (they’re long dead, but still, man, they live with me now, they’re my soulmates! Plus, they know how to cook, man.) I did not add salt.

The cut off artichoke stem.

In The Joy they advise you to serve the artichokes with Béchamel sauce. I know how to make Béchamel. My mother taught me when I was 8. It’s easy. Fry onions and garlic, add flour, add water or milk, season with whatever you can find (I usually empty my entire stash of herbs), and that’s it. Oh no no! Not Irma and Marion! They put flour in butter, then add milk, than add onions and garlic and only then do they season the sauce. They don’t tell you how to season it, exactly, but after tasting the superb sauce I had just created (see, they need to be my BFF’s, they could tell me 50 years before I was born how to make Béchamel sauce, I mean, they’re saints!), I knew it was so nearly perfect that my overly enthusiastic seasoning would kill it stone dead. And I didn’t want that. I wanted the sauce to live. And talk to the artichokes. And make a beautiful artichoke sauce. And make me happy. So I could die in peace someday, because I had, once in my life, made the perfect Béchamel. It was tough, you know, but I added salt. Lots. I added pepper. A little. And I added chives. (See, I have this chives plant in a pot, and it’s dying, so I think that by cutting it, it might stand a chance. And otherwise it will be dead anyway.) And a little marjoram. And that was it.

The Béchamel, prior to seasoning.

And then the whole thing was done. I ate the artichoke with an abundance of Béchamel, because I love a lot of sauce. On anything really. And it was great! Everything was great about it. So I do think that I can die in peace now. Even though I’m not sure the Béchamel was perfect, it was better than anything I’d ever hoped to achieve. And that is kind of perfect, right?

In the end, buying Irma and Marion Rombauer’s The Joy Of Cooking would be a fine investment, even today. I would like to get my hands on Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ too, then my life will be complete and I can do whatever I want. That would be great, wouldn’t it?

BTW: this is my first post with photo’s, I should do that more often, I like it! If only uploading pictures to my computer were more easy…

 

Pizza Perfect

Filed under: cooking,main course — orangepumpkin @ 19:51
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I promised that I would post something about my pizza frenzy. Now I will.

It all happened a few years ago. I was in the supermarket and I discovered a mix for pizza dough. Curious little creature that I am, I bought it and it ended up on my shelf for some time. Until one day I couldn’t make up my mind what to make for dinner, and I stumbled upon the pizza mix. On the back there were a few suggestions on what to put on your pizza. I honestly don’t remember what it was. I set off to the supermarket (this was before my whole local produce gamble came into play), I bought what I thought had been suggested on the back of the package and I went home again. I made the pizza and I was delighted. It was some seriously great pizza! The crust was quite brilliant, and the toppings were quite great too. From then on I almost always had a bit of that mix in my cupboard, because you never know when you feel like pizza.

The following, on how the pizza-saga evolved, might be quite familiar, since this happened to me before (well, I think the pizza came first, but on this blog they come second). It has everything to do with my untempered enthusiasm, moderation, and measurements and proportions. You can guess it: it went wrong. It went hilariously wrong. It simply had to. One day I simply forgot all the pizza making lessons I had learnt in the previous months. Someone unplugged my memory and it was drained. I planned on making a pizza, so I went and bought the ingredients. While I was in the supermarket I remembered what I had put on my pizzas before and what had been really great, and then I bought it. I bought everything that I had liked on a pizza at some point in my past life. That we shall call mistake number one. It’s a huge one. I did have some moderation in mind, I didn’t buy three leeks, five carrots, two onions and an extra big pack of mushrooms. I only bought small amounts. But I did buy everything. I might have gone easy on the meat, remembering that there are barely any pizzas that have five types of meat on them. But I did get leek, mushrooms, carrots, olives, mozzarella, salami, tomatoes and probably a bunch of other stuff that I don’t even remember anymore.

When I got home my salivating glands were in overdrive, my mind was quickly wandering off to the perfect pizza place and I cut up all my toppings, kneaded the dough, etc. Once I was putting all the topping on the pizza I started to realise something: there is no way in pizza that that will fit. It dawned on me that I had bought too much. I said dawned, because it never really set in. Enter: mistake number two, it’s even bigger than mistake number one. I quickly quit putting more stuff on there. I did squeeze in some tomatoes, and the mozzarella, but the rest of it I stored in the refrigerator. Then I put the pizza in the oven. I was convinced that the vegetables would shrink and settle, that the moist from the tomatoes would help that process and that my pizza would be perfectly fine.

Of course, it wasn’t. My carried away mind had resided on Mt. Vesuvius this time, forgetting all about my dear friends ‘Measurements & Proportions‘. The vegetables didn’t shrink and settle. The pizza didn’t work the way I had planned at all. It wasn’t cooked. The crust was ok, but the rest of it just simply sucked.I don’t remember if and how I salvaged it. I do remember that I realised later on that I should’ve made a quiche instead. Quiche is good, and in case you’re throwing on too much stuff, it’s definitely better than pizza!

I learnt a terribly important lesson that day: don’t overdo your pizza. Keep it simple. After that I’ve made quite a few nice pizzas that were quite perfect. I didn’t put on everything I knew would be good on pizza. Because I do know that it will, but not on one small pizza. Everything put together won’t work on pizza. Though obviously I haven’t learnt my final lesson in moderation. I keep getting carried away. It’s in my nature I guess.

Oh, typing this up just reminds me so much of the great pizzas I used to make. God, I wish this was Italy and I could eat pizza all day. I guess it’s time to make some again. Of course I’ll share the recipe! Hope I’ll remember the ‘less is more’-motto that definitely applies to pizza!

 

Measurements April 19, 2010

Filed under: baking,cooking — orangepumpkin @ 19:39

If there is one thing in cooking that I’m a total loser at, it has to be measurements. Give me a recipe and I will not get one measurement exactly right. If I do manage, though, it has to be something like eggs. Throwing in an extra egg is a little much, most of the time. The thing is, measurements are hardly ever exact. In my opinion, they’re guidelines. If a recipe says ‘one pinch of salt’, and you taste it, and it needs more salt, what do you do? I know what I do, I throw in more salt. If I have to five more pinches. The thing that matters in the end is the taste of what you’ve just made. So exact measurements are not for me. I usually have a little too much of this, and too little of that. And no ones complained, hence my conclusion: they’re just guidelines. Don’t fret about it, it’ll be fine.

One thing in cooking (or baking, for that matter) that is important, is proportion. If you throw in too much flour, you need to throw in too much butter, too. And at some point too much also means another egg. I’m not too exact at that, either, I’m not fretting about the egg or the butter too much. Usually whatever I’m making is turning out fine, despite the fact that my measurements and my proportions are slightly off.

But sometimes, I get it all wrong. Sometimes my measurements are way off and I lose sight of the proportions. That is a recipe for disaster. Guaranteed. I would love to say that usually I’m fine, and maybe I am, but I’m off, way off, too often, to my liking. And I feel bad when that happens. I have some really disturbing little examples, and I’m not planning on keeping them from you. The things that I call cook-ups have to do with something gone wrong in the measurements and proportions department. Even when I’m not sure what went wrong exactly. It separates me from the real cooks. I will always be just some desperate loon trying to cook something up. And then failing. I have many failures to go, in my life. Ah well…

 

First Celeriac April 18, 2010

Filed under: cooking — orangepumpkin @ 18:17
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It’s spring and I’m celebrating. I don’t care for winter vegetables anymore. But I promised I would have some celeriac, sometime. It’s good for me, it’s good for you, so why not? But it’s a winter vegetable. So when the sun is out and about and I’m enjoying things like turnip greens and eventually asparagus, why would I ever have celeriac?

Yesterday I was at the local vegetable garden, they have a shop and you can buy local veggies. Which is great, of course. Since these veggies have been grown mere meters (ahem, kilometers) from my home, and that’s as close as it can get. I know that there are veggies closer to home, but they’re grown by people for their own use. They’re being extremely selfish in not selling. But anyway, that’s ok. Because at least somebody is willing to grow vegetables and sell them. And they grow celeriac, too! All winter the hugest of huge celeriacs have been staring at me whenever I went there. But I thought, what is a little girl like me going to do with a big huge fat celeriac like that? When I say big, huge, fat and all that, I mean that these celeriacs truly were the size of pumpkins. Pumpkins have a hole in them, where they keep their seeds. Celeriacs don’t. So what was I going to do with a solid celeriac? I didn’t buy them. I decided against their bulkiness. Which was good. But yesterday when I paid the gardens a visit they had this reasonably sized celeriac. And I knew I had to buy it. So I did.

And today I ate it. I made a simple but truly gorgeous stamppot out of it. You don’t have to, though. The great thing about celeriac is you only have to use a bit in your mashed potatoes to give that just a little bit extra. It’s great, mashed potatoes with mashed celeriac in it. But you can also throw it into your soup. I guess any kind of soup. Celeriac has a natural broth-like taste. It’s lovely!

Today though, I made this brilliant local dish (only local ingredients) and even though that on itself qualifies it for a Friday recipe, I thought I shouldn’t wait any longer. Winter is over, spring has arrived, the sun is shining, and there is still place for celeriac, albeit a little small. It’s still spring like!

Ingredients

1 small celeriac

4 big potatoes (about 600 grams I assume)

1 table spoon cream cheese

salt

fresh cut chives

Boil potatoes and diced celeriac for 20 minutes. Drain them (you don’t want soup), and mash them with the cream cheese and salt. Serve with a little bit of chives on top. Very nice, smooth and elegant.

 

Simply Pasta April 17, 2010

Filed under: cooking — orangepumpkin @ 18:37

A few years ago I made Bolognese sauce from scratch. I’ve always loved Bolognese anything. Pizza, crisps, pasta, you name it. Bolognese sells, or at least to me. Anyway, I loved it a lot, but I didn’t particularly care for the standard package type of sauce. It was either too fat (really… disgusting!), or it was too salty, or it was just too whatever. It wasn’t just right. So I Googled a recipe and I found it. I found many different recipes of Bolognese sauce. The quantities that went in there were stellar. Really, even I thought at one point, that the whole country would have to come get a share, and I still would have plenty left. After a long cooking time it was finally finished and I served it with some pasta to myself and a few friends. It’s been a while and the memory of what it exactly tasted like is a bit faded, but I do remember that from the first bite I knew this was the most amazing and perfect Bolognese sauce I had ever tasted. I had enough for an army, but we ended up nearly finishing the stuff. It was damn good! It was elegant, it was subtle, it wasn’t too salty, it wasn’t too fat, it wasn’t too whatever. It was just perfect. My taste buds went to heaven and I had to go there to fetch them, because my goodness, I had some more of that divine stuff to eat!

After this immense success I knew I had to do it again. I had to make Bolognese sauce. I had to share its divinity with the world. No one except the few friends that actually tasted it would believe me if I didn’t. After a few months I ended up deciding this was the right time for a second try. I Googled for a recipe and I found something. It was easy, I recognised the websites, so I was sure this was all said and done. I remembered that I had somehow combined a few recipes to get the gist of Bolognese sauce, and since that had resulted in the most perfect Bolognese sauce ever, I went for it again. The only thing I did wrong was moderation. When I’m super enthusiastic about something, I get carried away. And with the memory of the most perfect Bolognese sauce still lingering on my lips, I got carried away. I got carried far and away. I ended up in the Himalayas. Which, mind you, is long and far from Bologna. So there I was, on the top of Mt. Everest and I had no idea.

It went a little something like this: I had an equally big pan to make this most amazing sauce. I threw in about every ingredient that I remembered. But I did something else too. I threw in every other ingredient that I didn’t particularly remember but that I felt would make the sauce even more perfect than it could ever be. It’s a trivial mistake and I make it almost all the time when I’m superbly enthused and carried away. And I was on Mt. Everest, remember? So I was enjoying the Himalayas, while the sauce that I should have been paying attention to, was getting too whatever. It wasn’t too salty, it wasn’t too fat, but it was too whatever. It had too much going on. My taste buds had no idea what was happening to them, and my brain kept thrusting the memory of the most perfect Bolognese sauce ever on them. But all my taste buds could give in reply was: it’s nothing like it! And it wasn’t. It wasn’t gross, but it wasn’t perfect, it was OK. And that was not what I had set out to do. I didn’t cry, because I rarely do that, but I was very disappointed and I asked myself: what did I do differently? The truth is, I didn’t know. I didn’t exactly remember what I’d done the first time around. I hadn’t written it down. I hadn’t blogged about it, or if I had I’d just stated that I’d made the most perfect Bolognese sauce ever, without giving away any details. I ended up sort of vowing never to make my own pasta sauce again. Simply because I could never reproduce that one perfect, spot on, first try.

Until today, that is. Recently I’ve tried some sauces from various manufacturers and I hated them. Because I’ve been getting to the hate point gradually over time, and I’ve finally arrived. I do ‘hate’. I hate these instant pasta sauces they sell you. They’re usually not too fat, but they’re too salty, they contain too many chemicals, too little vegetables, and they’re generally shitty. A few months ago I bought a jar of pasta sauce at the closest supermarket I know, and there was barely anything in there. The tomato sauce wasn’t made of tomatoes. It was some slimy kind of red blob with a few bits in it. It was goo-ey. It was disgusting. If it had tasted OK, I think I would’ve been more forgiving. But it tasted even worse than it looked. It was terrible. And while I was munching on my good pasta with terrible goo all over it, I decided I’d had enough. OK, so I blew the old fantastic Bologna sauce to smithereens, that could happen, right? It was only my second time and all. Not that I was going to try again. All I was going to do was not have the yuck-stuff and do something better all by myself. Because that shouldn’t be too hard, I figured.

So I bought a bottle of tomato-pulp. It’s organic, so it’s in a bottle. I don’t buy it because it’s organic, I’m not an organic food freak. Even though ‘orange pumpking’ almost is an anagram of ‘organic pumpkin’, almost, because I don’t get more than ‘organ pumpkin’, and that sounds a bit bizarre. I buy the tomato pulp because it is good stuff. It’s just tomatoes, nothing else. No sweetener, no condensing, no extra water, no nothing. Just tomatoes. Ok, so maybe they’ve added a few chemicals to keep it edible for a while. I used it on my pizza’s, when I had a pizza frenzy. I will probably blog about that some more later. I figured that having this lovely tomato pulp over my pasta and nothing else would surely be better than the chemically enhanced shite from the jars. And it was. It wasn’t perfect. It was only OK, but it wasn’t like eating a science project. It was like eating tomato pulp and pasta. I’d added salt and a few herbs and I liked it. It needed improvement and while I was eating I pondered over what ingredients I could add safely without harming my taste buds. I decided I could add onions and garlic. It’s in my kitchen already, so I decided I would a next time.

And I did. I even threw in two carrots for good measure. All I can say is that I’m on the mend. One day I will attempt the perfect Bolognese sauce again. And it will be better than my second attempt at it. It will have improved. Because I have learnt a lesson: moderation. Keep it simple. Don’t overdo it. Keep it honest. Throw in this or that, but not this AND that. And if you do, leave something else out. I will recover from the immense Bolognese trauma I have suffered. And all will turn out OK, or perfect. If I do make the sauce and I live to tell it, I will finally give you the recipe, because this time, I will remember it, write it down and include all the details of it. This pasta sauce I made, with the tomato pulp, one big onion, two cloves of garlic and two carrots: it was great. It was tasty, it was subtle, it was simple. And it dawned on me: pasta sauce is supposed to be simple. Pasta is supposed to be simple. Even when it isn’t, it should always taste as if it is the simplest thing on earth.

 

Chicory and shrimp! April 16, 2010

Filed under: salad,side dish,vegetable — orangepumpkin @ 09:24
Tags: , ,

I don’t really know how I feel about my endeavour, right now. Because I don’t particularly care for two of the ingredients: chicory and baby shrimp. Well, it’s not actually baby shrimp, it’s crangon crangon. But they’re the smallest shrimp I’ve ever seen or eaten. In Dutch we call them ‘Hollandse Garnalen’, which translates into Dutch Shrimp. That probably is because 80% of those shrimp are caught by Dutch (and German) vessels. But I don’t really like these grey shrimp. They’re tasting too fishy to me. I don’t particularly like it.

The thing is, the name implies that they’re local. And to some extent, that’s true. They’re caught in the North Sea, and the Dutch coastline borders only the North Sea. So in everyone’s mind, some fisherman walks out into the sea, catches himself a bunch of these shrimp, peels them, and then eats them. How local do you want your shrimp? It doesn’t get more local than that. Well, to some amateur fishermen this could be true. I’ve seen these shrimp on the beaches, not many, but they’re there. So they definitely live in the North Sea, and even make it to our Dutch coast. But the shrimp you buy in the supermarket aren’t local. They just aren’t. I know this because there was a Dutch TV-programme about it a while back. They traced the route these supposedly Dutch shrimp travel before they end up on your plate. What it boils down to is that they’re being caught off the coast of Denmark. Ok, so that’s a little north of the Netherlands, Denmark and the Netherlands share a group of islands (the Wadden Islands), so you could argue that it’s just around the corner. On board of the vessel that catches these shrimp, they’re boiled, then they’re sold in Yerseke, which is in the most southern part of the country. It could be IJmuiden too, at least some place with a fish auction. If you’re a supermarket, you buy your fish at one of these commercial auctions. We’re talking big fishy business. Then these little grey shrimp are shipped to Marocco. See, that’s how local these Dutch shrimp are. Maroccans peel the shrimp for a few cents where Dutch employees would cost ten to a hundred times more. So yes, economically shipping the shrimp to Marocco is a good decision. In terms of local produce it’s ridiculous. After the Peeling of the Shrimp (that would be a great title for a thriller, wouldn’t it?), they’re being shipped to Germany, where they’re being packaged. I think that after or before that they’re once again sold in Yerseke, or IJmuiden, or whatever, but I’m not sure about that. When they’re packaged they’re finally moving to the supermarkets, through a busy distribution system that will take the shrimps on a sight-seeing tour of the country.

You see, besides that I don’t much care about the taste of these shrimp, I have a little ‘local-produce’ concern about them. According to my supermarket, the shrimp I’ve just bought are caught in the North Sea and the Wadden (which actually means they could be from anywhere between Scandinavia and Spain, and they probably are). But they’re ‘green’ because no other fish are harmed in the process. But they are, because the Dutch trawlers use nets that drag over the bottom of the sea, and they catch other fish that are not so ‘green’. Anyway, I have enough reason not to buy them, but I did anyway. Because the recipe demanded it.

I must say, that after I was done with my salad and I ate it, I didn’t feel so bad about the shrimp and chicory. They were doing quite nicely in there. I liked the overall taste, and the way my extensive use of mayonnaise covered some of it up. And the excessive use of chives did do something good, too. Ok, I didn’t love it. And I’m not sure if I will make it again. But it was better than I expected. I’ll give these well-traveled shrimp some credit. And the not-so bitter chicory, of course!

Ingredients

2 chicory

100 gr Dutch shrimp (I suppose you could use any type of small shrimp, really)

3 table spoons mayonnaise

freshly cut chives

2 tea spoons soy sauce (Japanese)

1 tea spoon lemon juice

1 apple (Granny Smith)

2 table spoons freshly cut chives

freshly ground chili pepper (Ok, I don’t have that, I used chili pepper powder instead)

Cut the chicory in small bits. Mix the mayonnaise and soy sauce in a bowl, add chili pepper and lemon juice. Cut the apple into small dice, I left the skin on for extra colourful effect. Mix apple, shrimp, chicory and chives in the mayonnaise-mix. Enjoy!

How Local?

shrimp: see above, pretty damn non-local

chicory: Dutch

chives: cut off in my own kitchen, but I bought the plant at the supermarket first

mayonnaise: made it myself

the spices & lemon juice were pretty non-local too.

 

Brassicaceae April 12, 2010

Filed under: vegetable — orangepumpkin @ 18:34
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Recently I discovered something. I love most vegetables from the Brassicaceae-family. I have a preference towards them even. As well as aliaceae (onions, garlic, leek, I mean, what would life be without them?), but I already knew that. I just didn’t know that so many of the things I love are related to each other in the Brassicaceae-family.

First of all: garden cress. My life is depending on it! I use garden cress in a lot of things. For instance my kick ass sandwiches. They need cress. Lots of cress!

Another thing: rucola (rocket).  It’s another family member. It has a bit of a peppery taste. Which, apparently, is characteristic. I like rucola. I like the word. ‘Rucola’. I can say that in the mirror time and again, until I almost feel Italian. Because I think it is Italian. And I love Italy. I’ve never been there, but I should move there, and never leave again. I could have pommodori and rucola. I could have pesto and avocado (ok, thats Peruvian, but I’d plant a avocado tree there, and I’ll kick it if it doesn’t grow enough avocados). I could have mozzarella and olive oil. And I wouldn’t feel like a sinner every time I have these things. It would be perfectly OK and normal. Because they’re Italian. I would eat pasta, and only pasta. I’d never have to bother with any depressing potato-dishes anymore. I’d drink wine like it’s water. I’d run around in a t-shirt and skirt, I’d wear flip-flops year round. And life would be great.

Um, sorry, I wasn’t talking about Italy, was I? Oh yes, I remember. Brassicaceae!

Did you know another family member is mustard? Yup. I like mustard. I think mustard is awesome. I remember that we went on a holiday to France (don’t worry, I won’t get sidetracked here, I hate France. Even if they have tomatoes, rucola, mozzarella, and the Provence. France sucks). It was in the Provence. I fell in love with the lavender fields. It’s the only good thing from France, you know, lavender fields. Lavender honey. Lavender oil. But anyway, we also went to a market in a small Provençal village. Which was awesome. My mum bought us French comics. The sun was shining. There were grapes. And then we went to a lavender field and we bought some of the most awesome honey I’ve ever tasted. In another village we bought a few jars of special mustard. And I remember one specifically. It was the most awesome mustard ever made. It was ‘moutarde au miel’, there’s no way to say that in another language, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it. But ok, since you probably don’t know that ‘miel’ is honey, I’ll translate; it was mustard with honey, honey mustard. And boy! Friggin’ awesome! As was the mustard with the cool herbs, but I don’t remember that one as well as the ‘moutarde au miel’, because in my teeny tiny child’s mind, that was (and is) the most awesome mustard. Ever.

See, no sidetrack, it was all about mustard! But, I found out yesterday that there is another cool family member of Brassicaceae: radish. Right now, I think I should start a religion. I will devote all my life to eating Brassicaceae and worshipping the divinity of it. But I’m not exactly religious, so it would be hypocrite to worship a vegetable, and then eat it, wouldn’t it? So I won’t. I just tell you that I think Brassicaceae deserve their own house of worship: a restaurant!

And another family member is: raapsteeltjes (turnip greens, I’ve loved ’em before)! I love those! I think Spring could not be celebrated right without a raapsteel-stamppot (oh, it’s the potatoes again!). Life wouldn’t be the same without them, that’s all I’m saying.

But let’s not forget about horseradish. I love that stuff! Besides Italian food I have a weak spot for Japanese. And the Japanese cuisine in itself can be considered religion. But especially sushi and sashimi are true religions. They worship wasabi. And wasabi is made of horseradish. Wasabi is wonderful. Too much and you’ll die, or at least most of your taste buds will. Not enough, and you don’t feel half-alive. But just enough, oh la la! It will make you feel alive and awake. And then you still have a bit of tuna or salmon to enjoy while feeling properly alive. Yeah, wasabi’s the stuff I’d be surving in my house of worship!

And the most beautiful yellow flower (well, almost) is also a member of the extensive Brassicaceae-family: rapeseed (canola). I loved the fields of flowering rapeseed (which would’ve been both in France and the Netherlands, but they’re to be found in Germany as well).

The only part of the family I don’t really care for is the cabbage. I consider them the in-laws. They’re a sorry bunch trying to hitch a ride with their cool cousins. But that won’t fly. I think cabbage is worse than potatoes. I might kind of like broccoli, probably because it sounds kind of Italian, but the rest of them I really don’t care for. I think they’re depressing winter foods that should be banned. I’d prefer to eat leek and pumpkins all winter. Or just hibernate and don’t eat at all. But thank god I’ve got my peppered tasty friends left!