A History of Shopping

Kruideniers
Grocery shopping. We all do it, whether we enjoy it or not. But have you thought much about how it used to be before we had grocery stores and name brands to turn to? The Kruideniers Museum, in a little area just behind ‘t Hoogt cinema near Neude, takes visitors back to the early days of grocery stores. The museum is actually a shop on the ground floor, where you can buy various drop, mints, candies and household goods carefully weighed out in the traditional way. Upstairs, in the 17th century building, is a small area set up to show some of the early packaging, displays and measurements first used in these kinds of shops.

The museum is known also as Betje Boerhave, in honor of the 19th century grocery woman whose notes and diaries have provided much of the historical information for the museum. The museum receives no subsidy and runs on donations and the profits from the candy and goods sold in the shop. Admission is free, and the volunteers who keep the museum running are very friendly and obviously care about the museum.

Zeep

It’s definitely worth a visit, if for no other reason than to take a look at some of the early packaging of products you may well remember from childhood, or even products that you still buy today. The Droste cacao display I posted Friday is just one of the many interesting and attractive product displays set up. It was fun to see ones that I recognize even from America, along with brands that I’ve come to know since moving here, including Hema and Maggi.

Maggi

Quaker Oats

Schoonmaken

Dispenser

One of the unintentionally funny — and scary — displays was this advertising poster for syrup.
Scary Syrup

Ka-Ching

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

This afternoon around 1 p.m., I decided to head out to the grocery store to pick up the one or two small ingredients I needed for dinner tonight. I thought since I needed so little, I’d just head to the little grocers down the street from us. Then I got there. There was a line of high school students out the door. I forgot that they all converge on the various grocery stores at that time of day.

There was no way I was going to deal with that crowd just for a few tiny items, so I turned around and debated heading home and waiting, or just going ahead to one of the regular grocery stores since I was already out. I decided on the latter, and headed to Plus on Voorstraat. The store has undergone a makeover and reopened recently. I hadn’t been in since the renovation, but had seen a glimpse of the new inside yesterday. As I approached, I started to wonder if it was actually open, since there was a large dumpster standing where the entrance used to be. Fortunately, I saw a couple of students approach the same spot and then turn around and say something about the new entrance. Aha! I guess students are useful for some things. I looked a bit further down the street and there it was, the grand new door!

As soon as I walked in, I could tell they’d done quite a bit of work. It was all a bit fancier — certainly fancier than it had been in the past — and they even had a section that seemed to offer take-away food of some sort, staffed by actual people! What used to be the liquor store section has been turned into a small dining area. The lighting is much more ambient, otherwise known as not so glaringly fluorescent. The shelves are all a bit nicer and everything looks a bit less dusty than it did in the past.

That particular branch of Plus has always been a bit hit-or-miss with me. On one hand, they do sometimes have a few of the more interesting ingredients, including dried lentils and premade pizza crusts, not to mention a decent selection of different types of nuts. On the other hand, there was sometimes an odd smell inside, and stuff really was kind of dusty. The new design of the store definitely makes it more appealing to me and in some ways, it seems more like the grocery stores I was used to in the US, with a wider selection of both food items as well as kitchen items. They now have some simple pots and pans, even! They also have a few small sewing items, as well as some simple tools and things for your bike. It’s not the kind of stuff you necessarily need all the time, but I always appreciated being able to get some of these smaller items as I was doing my normal grocery shopping, rather than having to go to a different store. [To be fair, if you go to the Albert Heijn XL stores, they have all of this kind of stuff and more, but when you live in the city center, you don’t go all the way out to AH XL very often. It’s nice having this kind of stuff local.]

As in the past, Plus also has a few items that some expats may be happy to find. I saw two types of marshmallow fluff, as well as regular marshmallows (white and colors), along with yellow mustard, boxed mac and cheese, peanut butter, and Duncan Hines cake mix. Sadly, no ranch dressing, but they did have some Reece’s Peanut Butter cups and I treated myself to one, since that’s what we usually bought in the US to give out on Halloween. It may be a day late, but it’s still going to be enjoyed! They also stock multiple types of maple syrup, although I noticed the ones in the organic section all cost around €7,75 a bottle (I think that’s around US$10). I think some of the other “foreign” foods were also still pricier than I remember them ever being when they were “domestic” foods. It’s a good thing the Reece’s were the only thing I really wanted or am likely to buy often. Most of the other stuff on offer is stuff that I didn’t buy very often in the US, either.

I’m not sure about their new check-out counters; it seems a bit cramped and awkward now that there’s no more conveyor belt and only one small counter spot for two check-outs. Otherwise, I’m kind of digging the new Plus. I might have to give them another try when I’m doing regular shopping and see how their selection stands up.

[I’m pretty sure this post is one of the more banal ones I’ve ever written, but for fellow expats and those living near enough to Voorstraat to do some shopping, it might be of some use or interest. Now excuse me while I go have a peanut butter cup with my afternoon coffee.]

Rants and Raves


That, my friends, is a picture of Orlando sitting atop one of the apples growing on the apple tree on our back terrace. The picture was taken a couple of months ago, but the apples are finally ripe and ready to eat. In fact, one is baking right now in the form of a simple puff pastry apple tart. I grew up with my own orange tree, but this is the first time I’ve had my own apple tree! If this tart goes well, I’ll have to try my hand at making the traditional Dutch appel taart. The crust of those is to die for!

So that’s the rave part of the title. Now the rant. Albert Heijn, the grocery chain we usually go to, doesn’t seem to be stocking cumin powder anymore, just the cumin seeds. I use the powder so often that I’d prefer to have the powder already made and not have to grind my own. Today, Lizzy kindly suggested I check the Conimex brand, since they make their own cumin powder, just with an Indonesian name. I think Merian was even suggesting Conimex might have a chili powder, too. Unfortunately, when I went to AH today, not only did they still not have their usual brand of cumin powder, they now no longer seem to stock any of the Conimex products other than the kroepoek. (Thank heavens they at least still have those lovely little addictive morsels!) Tomorrow, I’ll either head over to the tokos (Chinese shops) over by Hoog Catharijne, or I’ll see if Plus (the not quite so nice supermarket) or Super de Boers (the slightly more expensive super market) at least carry cumin powder. I’ve heard that AH seems to like to get rid of the products that are most enjoyed; it’s seeming more and more to be true. 😉

Now excuse me while I go take the apple tarts out of the oven!