Monday, August 1, 2011
If I Had a Hammer...
One of the things that continually frustrates me about life in the Netherlands (at least, the corner of the Netherlands I live in--maybe it's different in the Randstad) is the lack of baking soda in the supermarkets. Baking powder is sold in little handy-dandy packets, but soda is conspicuously absent from the shelves. I typically have to go to a toko to get some, and even then there's no guarantee that they won't be out.
I have to wonder if this is the reason why Dutch cookies and cakes all taste the same. Besides speculaas, all Dutch cookies and cakes are the same buttery, sweetened confection, in different shapes. Some might have pink icing on it. Some might be decorated with sugar crystals. But for the most part, once you've tasted one, you've tasted them all, and that's a huge part of the reason why Karel's been pestering me to make him more chocolate chip cookies.
Baking soda is how you achieve the phenomenal levels of fluff in American-style pancakes, the secret to getting cookies to crumble properly, and clearing slow drains (carefully dump some soda down the drain, and flush with vinegar, followed by a kettle or two of boiling water). It neutralizes and bleaches armpit sweat stains from white t-shirts (don't ask how I know this), and keeps our litter boxes smell-free. It cakes and takes off baked-on-goodness from the inside of our oven, and when we had a porcelain stove-top, it cleared off the the mess from that. Combined with aluminum foil, it cleans silver. It is so useful, so innocuous, and so cheap, it's strange that it's not everywhere.
I have a theory that the coporations--Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble--have entered into some kind of agreement with the major retailers in the Netherlands to never carry baking soda, in order to drive up sales of the next Super-Cleaning-Oxygen-Bubbly-Antibacterial-Chemical Crap. The loss to Dutch food is, apparently, not a concern.