Typical Dutch

Bread of life

What is the food you see the most of in the Netherlands? I can tell you, it's bread!

Especially at lunch time, you often see people eating bread. Whether they bring it as a sandwich, or buy it at a canteen or restaurant, they all eat bread. Some even bring a bag of bread rolls and start to fill them with cheese or vegetables or ham at lunchtime. Another thing you notice is how many varieties of bread there are, from the soft to the hard to the chewy, from the brown to the white. Sometimes I get confused when I have to buy bread, because even the whole-wheat bread varies (and I don’t understand Dutch very well when I read the label, so to me it all looks the same). I’ve visited several companies in the Netherlands, and as you can already predict, lunch is always various kinds of bread. One time, the bread was only filled with a thin layer of ham, and my Dutch friend said that was typical Dutch. Once I asked my friend why it is so common just to have bread for lunch. The answer is: because people don’t want to get sleepy after the break; they want to stay awake, so they don’t eat a big meal. The other story that I heard referred to the history of the Dutch working people. Back in the past, a long, long time ago, the workers had very little time for their lunch break, so bread was the best solution for a quick lunch. And perhaps it became a habit until now. As an Asian person, I’m used to having a big meal at lunch (well, actually at every mealtime), typically with rice, meat and vegetables. But now I’m starting to eat bread for lunch, as sometimes I don’t have time to prepare my own lunch, or I need to save money rather than buy lunch at the canteen. Enjoy the Dutch bread!

Natasha Ayuningtyas Samosir, MSc Food Technology, from Indonesia.

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