Sunday, December 6, 2009

Language Barrier

Yesterday my boyfriend and I went shopping in Maastricht--we bought silver candlesticks for ourselves (to replace the thrift-store thingums that had broken) and wandered into and out of some pretty nifty shops. Then we tried to find a Chinese restaurant for lunch. It took us almost 40 minutes, but eventually we were able to find one. And it was good--evidenced by the fact that my boyfriend, normally of a dainty and ladylike disposition when it comes to his food, shoveled nearly 5 servings of food down his gullet. PLUS an appetizer, and soup--we'd ordered one of those XX/person menus, where you get a soup, starter, and main course. It was good, although not quite as delicious as food in, say, Chinatown, New York.

In most of the Netherlands, "Chinese food" actually means "Chinese-Indonesian food", which is pretty good by itself but terrible if you were expecting, well, anything like the Chinese food you'd find in the States, or anywhere else in the world where "Chinese food" actually means "Chinese food". And again, this is largely historical: up until the 1950s, the Dutch ruled Indonesia, and when they granted Indonesia its independence, they also gave anybody who feared to stay there a get-into-Holland-free pass. To this day, when you go to the supermarket, you will often find one aisle, or part of one aisle, covered in red-and-yellow packets of stuff for bami, nasi goreng, or prawn crackers.

But suffice it to say that most of the so-called Chinese restaurants in the Netherlands actually serve Indonesian food, so a Chinese restaurant that actually serves Chinese food is hard to find. Even so, I suppose it says a lot about Dutch food when I ask you to believe me when I say that even being tricked into eating something swimming in sauce is a delightful alternative to eating your standard Dutch pea soup.

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