First of all I would like to explain a bit about culture corner section of this blog. Here you will be able to find some quirky facts about food in different countries. That doesn’t mean this section will be a just about recipes divided by country. I like experimenting and trying out different things, tasting things from different cultures but such recipes will remain in the general recipes section. This place is for things that totally surprise me and I feel I should write about them more as a fun fact rather than a regular recipe entry.
Having spend a couple of months in the Netherlands already I managed to discover a few interesting things about their cuisine and you can expect more entries in this topic soon but I will start with a very interesting breakfast menu.
Hagelslag is something you might call sprinkles, the type you use to decorate cake and other sweet bakes. I am using the word sprinkle here more as a descriptive reference as I’m sure no Dutch person would call hagelslag sprinkles since quality difference between the two is quite vast. Hagelslag comes in all shapes and sizes as well as flavours, from traditional chocolate to fruity tang and from tiny sausage to animal shapes.
After this lengthy introduction I can now reveal the way it is eaten. You sprinkle hagelslag on top of your hot toast and munch it usually for breakfast or lunch. If this makes you think it’s a kids’ meal…well you are wrong. Of course it’s kids favourite but grown-ups devour it equally enthusiastically. To prove that here’s some fun fact: the Dutch consume each year 14 million kilos of hagelslag on 850 million slices of bread.
The story goes that hagelslag was invented by the Dutch company Venz in 1936. Its sole intention at that time being: to make toasts less boring. Well they certainly achieved that as it turned my toast world upside-down.
- Toast bread
Any Dutch person will tell you it’s all about quality with these three. Heat your toast, in other words: toast it. Spread some butter on it and sprinkle with hagelslag. Apparently you can also sprinkle hagelslag onto pancakes and as I suspect many other thing which I possibly just couldn’t imagine.
If you though that was unusual let me tell you about muisjes. Muisjes and hagelslag are somewhat connected. Whether they are the same thing but different types or different things with same usage is not quite clear for me yet. Personally I would call muisjes an older sibling of hagelslag as it came to be eaten as early as in the 17th century.
Muisjes are anise seeds covered in candy coating. Its name means ‘little mice’ apparently because of its shape and pointy tail of anise seeds that imitates mouse’s tail. After doing some research I found out that muisjes are produced currently only by one company (De Ruijter) and originally were white. Today you can buy them in two colour variations: pink with white and blue with white. Traditionally you would serve muisjes on beschuit (twice baked round bread – rusk) to guests visiting a newborn baby. Therefore blue would be if it was a boy and pink if it was a girl. Why they would do that is not quite clear for me still. One source claims it might be that mice were associated with fertility while on the other hand anise seeds are said to stimulate lactation. Either-way it’s an interesting tradition.
To make yourself a muisje breakfast you need muisjes, butter and beschuit. Smear some butter over beschuit and cover all in muisjes. I can tell you you will either love or hate it since anise seeds have quite a peculiar taste.
If you are visiting Holland just go to AH or any other supermarket and try to find these products to make yourself a typical Dutch breakfast. It will certainly be an interesting experience. If you are Dutch and love these feel free to comment on the way you like to eat these or maybe you want to share some other facts about it.
- Amsterdam magazine – Hagelslag article by Allison Guy
- My local supermarket ;)