Cookie Monster

It’s a lovely Saturday in Utrecht, so this morning, G and I headed to the bloemenmarkt (flower market) that is held each Saturday at Janskerkhof, just a few minutes walk from home. It’s like going to a much smaller version of the Keukenhof, the big flower garden/festival over by Leiden, but not as overwhelming. Much more my speed! I admit to having a bit of a black thumb and not much knowledge of plants and gardening, but after planting some flowers last spring with my mum, I was encouraged to give it another shot. Plus, from my limited knowledge of plant prices back in the US, I’m pretty sure the ones here are pretty inexpensive. I managed to get a total of 18 small plants for €10. The photo shows my haul today. I got a mix of lobelia (little blue flowers) and ijsplants (a multi-colored mix). I don’t know that they’ll grow that well, but I’ll give them a shot and hope they don’t die too soon!

Since it was such a nice day and I’d been enjoying being outdoors, I suggested we stop for a coffee before heading off to do the grocery shopping. I wanted to sit in the sun, but have a nice view, too. I thought about Neude, but they’re setting up for the Festival aan de Werf, so it wasn’t really ideal. Eventually, I thought of the Domplein and decided that I would finally, after all this time, go enjoy a coffee in the Domplein (the square at the cathedral). I’ve spent plenty of time there, but have never gotten around to sitting at one of the cafés that flank the square. We headed over, working our way through the growing number of tourists along the Oudegracht, and soon settled in at Café Corsini, right next to the Domtoren.

Service seemed a bit iffy from the beginning. We were the only ones sitting outside, but it took a while for anyone to show up and take our order. Then it took a while for our two coffees to arrive. That wasn’t that big a deal — it was a nice day and I was enjoying the sunshine — but when the coffee showed up, with mine seeming half-spilled already, things started to really go downhill. The coffee itself seemed a bit bitter. Then, I realized there was no cookie! No cookie!!! No little piece of chocolate!!! No nothing!!!!! The horror!!!!!

You see, I don’t think I’ve ever had a cup of coffee here in the Netherlands without also being served some little cookie or small piece of chocolate alongside it. It’s not necessarily something big or fancy, just a little bite or two to go nicely with your coffee. It’s one of the little things I love about the coffee culture here and it was one of the reasons why I wanted to stop and have a coffee today. It’s just so gezellig!

Geen Koffie Zonder Cookie
Even Subway (yes, we have the chain here) serves a cookie with the coffee. That sign is from one of the Subway shops near us. In fact, I passed it on the way back from the café as we headed to the grocery store. It says “geen koffie zonder cookie” (no coffee without a cookie) and you get the deal for €2, which is actually 20 cents cheaper than what we payed at Café Corsini for one measly cup of lousy coffee without even a crumb to go with it! Subway has little tables and chairs set out in front of the restaurant, right there in the sun. The view might not have been as nice, but in the long run, it probably would have been a better experience.

It’s a silly thing to fuss about, but I had really been enjoying myself and was truly looking forward to having a nice cup of coffee in a lovely, historic setting, simply relaxing and enjoying the moment. Perhaps they just forgot the cookies, although it was only just turned noon and they weren’t that busy. Another couple sat down outside after us, but gave up before us, when no one came to take their order. With the slow service, spilled coffee, and no cookie, I certainly don’t plan on going to Café Corsini again, at least not for a coffee. Maybe it was just a bad day, but I don’t feel inclined to take my chances there again when there are other places to go.

Same But Different

Since moving here, I’ve had to find a few food alternatives for some of my recipes, because certain ingredients just aren’t available here, or at least not easily available. I’m usually fine with this, but there are a few ingredients of which I just can’t help but prefer the American version. Today has been a study in adjusting and not adjusting.

First off, this morning I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Merian was coming over to help me with some tax-office stuff — more about that later — so I figured the least I could do was offer some homemade cookies to accompany her coffee. That said, you can’t really buy chocolate chips here. All sorts of other chocolate stuff, but not the semi-sweet morsels so common in the US. No big deal, though. This is an easy cooking dilemma to fix. Just get some of the lekker (tasty) chocolate bars they sell here and chop them up! I went with the dark chocolate with bits of orange that I had on hand. I like a small square for my dessert in the evening. The cookies turned out quite well and Merian seemed to really enjoy them. Just as well. It meant I could send off the bulk of the batch with her so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat them all.

My second round of cooking today represents the other end of the ingredient spectrum. A good ol’ pot of chili is easy enough to make, even here, but I’ve discovered that the Dutch chili powder doesn’t taste at all like the stuff I’m used to in the US. On one hand, it’s not that big a deal; you still get a nice bowl of food. On the other hand, sometimes I just really want that specific chili flavor that I know so well. I had my mum send me some last year, but I’ve used up the last of it today. Sadly, I don’t think I really had enough to properly flavor it, particularly since I used a can of the “chili” kidney beans they sell here. They’re already seasoned and I think they were a bit more powerful than my small bit of Harris Teeter-brand chili powder could handle. Oh well, another jar of chili powder should be winging its way to me soon enough.

Generally, I try to just adjust to not having certain items and just get used to what I do have on hand. I enjoy finding alternatives or hunting down harder-to-find ingredients here in town. I even make my own ranch dressing these days and have gotten used to the slight taste differences in the peanut butter and the Coke. Since this is my home now, I don’t want to be one of those annoying expats always whinging about how things are different/not as good here. So I adjust. But if I can get chili powder sent to me regularly, I’ll be a very happy expat. Surely, I’m allowed to miss one little thing. 😉