Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Pen 15 Club

This probably dates me in a way that ought to be embarrassing, but when I was a little kid, the height of scandal and humor was to ask someone if they wanted to be a member of the "Pen 15 Club". It didn't take much imagination, even at six years old, to realize that if you write "Pen 15" really close together, it's quite a dirty word (to a six-year-old, anyway) and therefore it was hilarious to write it on your hand in permament marker. Of course, merely being six years old and having a permanent marker was enough to make you cool.

I have a weakness for good pens, especially rollerball pens with a point of 0.5 mm or less. Although I do a lot of my writing on a keyboard, my (paying) job requires me to keep a lab notebook. And because I remain too poor for an iPad, pen and ink and dead trees will have to do for me. There aren't that many rules for keeping a lab journal, but just about everybody everywhere insists on writing in ink.

In any event, one of the things that has plagued me to distraction ever since I moved here is that it's hard to find a decent gel ink pen anywhere. Why a gel ink pen? Because the ink stays put, come hell or high water--and high water is a very real possibility in a lab.

Although corporations have access to the likes of Staples, the little people are reliant on the office supply sections of department stores like the V&D or the HEMA. For the most part, their selections are pretty good, although the Dutch preference for a two- or 23-ring binder continues to flummox me. Cheap ballpoints are sold by the box, while sligtly-nicer-but-still-cheap gel pens are sold individually.

My main issue with the pens available in this country, though, is not that they are expensive, or even their relative unavailability. As a non-hooking lefty, any pen I use will stuck when I push the point along, but the problem seems worse here than it did in the States. I hate writing with a ballpoint--the ink never flows nicely out of those, even for righties. Furthermore, the ink that comes from a fat point (0.7 mm) never dries before my hand comes along and smears it. And wouldn't you know--gel ink pens are only sold with 0.7 mm points.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekend Silliness

While checking out Breigh's blog at Canadutch, I came upon an entry from a few days ago that was something along the lines of "You know you've been living in the Netherlands for too long when..." It was mildly amusing, but as it was plainly posted by a bunch of semi-drunk 19-year-olds on their first study-abroad trip, only a few of the 100 points listed actually applied to people who really have been here for too long. Mark Twain's snide remark about experts being people who've lived somewhere for two days or twenty years clearly applies here.

In any case, you (really) know you've been living in the Netherlands for too long when/if...

1. You covet (or own) a bike made by Gazelle
2. You swear with "Godverdomme" instead of "f*ck"
3. Lunch without a sandwich feels incomplete
4. You no longer need to improvise with dinner on Sundays
5. Frites zonder feels empty and sad
6. You have a favorite stroopwafel vendor
7. "Parking" refers to bike rack space
8. You feel vaguely guilty for skipping a day of housekeeping
9. Tipping is no longer second-nature
10. You know to avoid kroketten and go for the frikandel
11. You know how to eat a tompouce
12. You know what a tompouce is
13. You've gone out wearing leggings-and-boots, or t-shirt-and-blazer
14. You know more about Willem and Maxima than you do Sasha and Malia
15. There are more than one pair of huis sokken in your sock drawer
16. You write time in a 24-hour system, and dates day-month-year (Americans only, this)
17. A "good" lunch means Cup-a-soup...Special
18. You have a favorite apple--bonus if it's Elstar
19. You have a recipe for pea soup (conditional, upon inclusion of vetspek)
20. You have ever bought something off marktplaats.nl
21. You have ever sold something on marktplaats
22. You start getting prepositions confused
23. Your weekly dinner menu includes "meat/veggie/potatoes" more than once. Bonus points if it gets mashed together into stamppot.
24. You have a scarf for every season (men, too!)
25. Nordic walking is a sport
26. Life without an electric kettle is unimaginable
27. "Watching sports" includes speed skating, darts, and dressage
28. The year 1953 explains everything
29. You still pull the door even though the sign says "Duwen"
30. You shop at a store that's been going out of business for years
31. You've ever used "the NS was late" as an excuse
32. You despise Geert Wilders
33. Keeping an orchid is a tour de triomphe
34. The need for consensus begins to outweigh any sense of urgency
35. A sales rep sold you a better deal than what you'd originally wanted
36. An empty day in your agenda throws you into despair
37. You have a photobook printed by the Albert Heijn
38. You are over fifty and still dying your hair
39. You never go into town on Queen's Day
40. You have an orange vuvuzela
41. You make visiting friends try Hollandse Nieuwe even if you don't like it yourself
42. When you see someone buying magere melk, you think they're American
43. You know where the hotel bought their furniture from
44. You can tell the difference between Dutch, Limburgse, and Fresian
45. You know where to find baking soda
46. You have a shopper
47. The thrift store owner knows you on sight
48. You get a free sample of 0.0% beer because it's free, even if you hate the stuff
49. You have a bag hanging by the door for shopping with
50. You never leave home without an umbrella

Day of Cats

The Netherlands has the fewest national holidays of most of the countries in the EU, so while Americans may grumble and roll their eyes at the luxurious holiday benefits most workplaces offer, you need to remember that there is no Martin Luther King Junior Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, or Thanksgiving. And not to mention the host of other lesser holidays--Presidents Day, Valentine's, Halloween, St, Patrick's, etc. None of these get so much as a token observance here, except via the seasonal decorative kitsch that appears in the Blokker.

 But there is one international holiday that is routinely noted, if not observed: Dierendag, or World Animal Day, as it's officially called. It falls on 4 October every year, the day of Saint Francis of Assisi (yes, the guy with all those cats). It's supposed to be a day to appreciate what animals do for us, and consequently it's no surprise that it's virtually unknown in the US.

 In the sixty-odd years that it's been celebrated in the Netherlands, Dierendag has lost its religious connection to St. Francis and gained a host of animal rights activism that tags along with any sort of "thinking about animals". On academic campus centers with animal facilities, picketers will demonstrate their opposition to animal research, and you might even get a few crazy souls preaching the virtues of a vegetarian diet. For clarification: the Dutch don't eat much meat compared to the quantities that are common in US restaurants (nobody would order a triple-burger, for instance), but they would never think about eliminating it from their diets entirely.

 It's also evolved into a day where you spoil your pet, and to make that task easier, the pet stores all have their sale-of-the-year during this time. The flyers for Dierendag appeared in our weekly junk mail assortment this week (and yes, we do go through our junk mail, because you never know when kitty litter and cat food will go on sale). Yesterday, having learned that it's a bad idea to try to haul 2/3 of your own weight in kitty litter on a bike, I took our little trusty shopper and walked to the Intratuin, with the intent of getting 40 kg (that's 88 lbs) of cat litter.

 Imagine my shock, then, to see the store getting outfitted for Christmas. Now, the kruidnoten and pepernoten (seasonal, spicy cookies) are always out early, so it didn't surprise me to see them at the grocery stores. But the Intratuin--where we get our Christmas tree ornaments--was setting up a full-sized carousel, taking down the deck chairs, and putting up Christmas ornaments. In September. Dutch culture purists can't blame the US for this one--Christmas doesn't start until Halloween.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Coffee and Tea

Tiffany Jansen at Clogs and Tulips posted this funny little anecdote about coffee time in the Netherlands. Everybody knows that coffee time is between 10:00 and 10:30. Afternoon tea in the Netherlands is a less well-studied pheonomena, and is likewise a little less rigid in its timing--it can begin between 3:00-3:15. And contrary to the names "koffie en thee", you can have tea during coffee and coffee during tea.

In academia, coffee and tea are practically mandatory, and bosses have been known to make attendance required if too many people skip too many breaks in a row. Experiments are planned around these time slots. They are typically situated like circle parties, where everybody sits around a table, if there is one--if there isn't, then all of the chairs end up in a circle anyway. Some places have a fancy coffee machine where you can push a button and your desired mix of coffee, sugar, hot chocolate, milk, and hot water come out. Others have a rotating roster of names of people who make up a large pot of coffee and tea and have it set up ahead of time. Most people bring something to nibble on--that isn't as mandatory as showing up and having a drink, but coffee alone can be unsettling to your stomach. Favorites of the Dutch are cookie/biscuit pack or a slice of ontbijtkoek. Personally, I prefer to make a Cup-a-Soup--it's still drinking, at least....

At first (and I mean way back when I was working in Leiden) I thought all of these breaks were silly and irritating, though that was because I was also commuting four hours a day. When you commute four hours a day, you learn to cut everything extraneous out of your life so that you can make the train home. (I did attend more-than-half of them, but that was only after I got good at scheduling my experiments) In Maastricht, I took breaks, but they were random--a combination of when I felt like it and when I had time, since I was the only member of the group for a while. And they could always be interrupted by a random emergency.

So it's only now that I've begun to appreciate the nice division of the day that coffee and tea allow: early morning to get organized, late morning for prep work. Lunch--another quasi-mandatory thing. Early afternoon for the hard work. Late afternoon for the number-crunching. Er...at least, that's what people say labs should run like...

And to be quite honest, I like that there's a set break in the day. Sometimes it comes too soon, sometimes it feels like it's an eternity away. But having it forces you to take a step back from what you've been doing, clears your head, lets you enquire after someone else's opinion.

Now, if all our world leaders would do that, then maybe the world would be a better place. Or else the conspiracy theorists are right, and Beatrix does, in fact, rule the world.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Country, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong...?

It used to be that I could tell the international people I worked with that while the politicians and government of the US government were the spawns of Satan, the people--your Average Janes and Joes--were really very decent and nice. And at the very least, they'd have the manners to quietly escort you to the door and send you on your way without an ass-whomping. Not that there weren't any jerks, but they were mostly relegated to late-night Fox News where nobody cared how many times they used the N-word.

Karel likes to say that the facade of humanity lasts only three square meals. I prefer to give humanity a little more credit than that (I say 5), but lately the news hasn't been inspiring. I can chalk up a lot of what people like Rick Perry have been saying about the state of the US government to pandering to a rich and elitist mob that's sick of being "raked over the coals" with taxes (ah ha ha). The short version is that the Tea Baggers (right-of-Republican whackos who have no idea just what the government actually does for them and therefore think nothing of dismantling the entire institution altogether) want to dismantle the entire US social safety net--what the US has of one--and let people pull themselves up by the bootstraps, or die in the gutters. And yes, this includes women, who would be completely screwed over if institutions like Planned Parenthood were to get the ax, and children.

History comes and goes in circles: a look back at the history of the US and the industrialized west shows that, in the days before unions and social welfare, there was poverty of the level we'd associate with Third World countries, child labor, and horrific working conditions for the masses while the elitist few reaped the rewards. The only middle class were the farmers, and that's pretty much a lost cause in this day since only 2% of the American workforce work in agriculture. The issues were rampant--justice by lynch mob in the South, typhoid and cholera in the large industrial cities, and food companies selling chemical impersonations of edible food.

That is, apparently, the state to which the happy mobs want the US to return to, because every time someone like Ron Paul gets up and spouts his rant against "Obamacare", everybody applauds. I bonk my head to the desk: What are the other options, then? Either everybody must buy health insurance or suffer a fine, or the responsible ones that do buy health insurance pay to subsidize care for the ones that don't. Or else you let the sucker die in the street. When the last option was mentioned, the crowd applauded.

If I were the president, I'd be sorely tempted to just cut off all government aid and access to people who participate in Tea Party rallies: can't drive on the Interstate, no more screening in airports, no help for you if your box of frozen pizza makes you sick, no treatment for you anywhere if you don't have health insurance, no unemployment checks, no disability checks, etc. You know, the whole "never knowing what you've got 'til it's gone". Then again, there's a reason why Obama is president and not me. I just hope that people recover their sense of compassion in 2012--I really do want to miss home, but that's getting harder and harder to do.

EDIT: Believe it or not, it gets worse. The crowd booed a gay soldier during another inane debate (and if you want a real puzzle to keep your logic center busy, riddle me this: if Rick Santorum says sexual orientation doesn't matter, then why is he so worked up--into a frothy mix--over the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell?). I sometimes feel like I'm in a dysfunctional relationship: I want to love my country, but she just makes it so damn hard.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I'm back to being a working stiff again, much to my relief--for a while I was afraid I was going to have to convince the Albert Heijn that I'm a barely-literate teenager (which I could probably pull off, given my terrible Dutch and deceptively young appearance) so that I could pay off my student loans. As it is, I found a job after much time and have been quite busy these past few days, between rediscovering Leonard Mlodinow's The Drunkard's Walk and working out a new rhythm to my days.

The greatest luxury for me these days is being able to step out the door and walk to work. It's a pleasant walk there and back again, and oddly enough, instead of tiring me out, I come home refreshed and ready for more--which is just as well, since Karel has been on the night shift this week and has been too zombified to make dinner when I get home. Luxury isn't bathing in a gold bathtub surrounded by butlers and French lovers, luxury is being able to wake up at a not-ungodly hour (6:30), coddle the cats as much as they need it, get a bit of Internet time, tidy up the kitchen, and still get to work on time. Luxury is working at a job that suits both your skill set and your personality.

Or I could have been working at Leiden and Maastricht for too long.

Yeah. That's probably it. But having the energy left at the end of the day to tackle a few pages of my novel still beats the pants off having a butler.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"...you ain't juicy!"

The title comes from a Jeff Foxworthy skit in the series "You know you're a redneck when...." What, my international readers may ask, is a redneck? Hard to say, actually--it's more of a mentality. Sort of the way being Dutch is, except without the culture, the history, the engineering know-how, penchant for cleanliness, and prudence of almost 500 years of Reformed Church-ness. Offhand, I'd say anybody who likes barbecued opossum is a redneck, but that would be insulting the indignous tribes in weird countries that actually eat those funny animals.

I've never been much of a juice drinker--I like coffee in the mornings, tea in the afternoons, and a cold white with dinner (assuming, that is, we're eating something that should be accompanied by white wine). Occasionally I have a jones for Diet Coke, but basically I'm just not a fan of sugary drinks. I do buy lots of fruit drinks, though, because Karel likes them. But even most juices contain more sugar than I like, which is why it took me so long to realize that there is a difference, between fruit juices and fruit drinks:

In short, fruit juices are found in the produce section of supermarkets, while fruit drinks are found in the aisles next to or around the soda/wine. Even though both are nominally chock full of vitamins (nuts? only smoothies), a juice typically denotes something fresh-squeezed and threatening to go south if not consumed immediately. Next to the juices, you'll also find what Europeans call "smoothies". I'll grant you that they're better than that soured-yogurt concoction the barista at the Selexyz tried to serve me, but I also believe that the whole point of imbibing a liquid is to get more of the liquid inside you than is stuck to the sides of the flask.

A fruit drink, on the other hand, can be bought in large quantities with impunity, and stored away in your pantry for weeks--months, even. They sit in their TetraPak cartons and wait until Karel puts one in the fridge--two if we're having guests. I buy them whenever they go on sale, but they are a pain in the @$$ to lug home.

Fruit drinks, in turn, are a derivative of syrup mixes that used to be popular back in the day, when Karel was a little kid--thick fruit syrups (or thin jellies) that came in huge jars, and you'd add a spoonful to a glass and then add water to it. These are easier to carry, which explaines their popularity in families of Karel's generation. This, in essence, was the equivalent of Kool-Aid to kids--it remains debateable whether Roos Vicee is really as healthy as it says it is, but at least they didn't have a creepy pitcher mascot. These syrups are still sold, but given the popularity of the boxed drinks, it seems as though the trouble of adding water is a bit much.

Something that I do like, though, is mixing the syrup with carbonated water, which is also sold in supermarkets. These delightful bubbly mixes make the most amazing sodas, and even better is that you can adjust the water:syrup ratio to your own sweet tooth.

I actually like the distinction--you don't get any confusion as to which one is healthy and which one is not. Of course, we also don't have that many choices--orange juice is either pulpy or not, there's no added-calcium-vitamin-D-fortified confusion to add to your choice of juice. Or drink.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


The Bike Shop in Philadelphia knew me as a regular. Not because I went and bought so many bikes, but because I often stopped by to pump up my tires to the recommended 80 lbs psi, and it was nice to ask them about stupid little clicks and squeals that my bike, bouncing over the potholes, would inevitably acquire. Plus they were always really nice and if the squeak only involved tightening a bolt or putting a smidge of grease on it, they didn't charge me for it. If it ever did need more extensive repairs, they'd always tell me how much it'd cost beforehand. I eventually ended up buying a book on how to "wrench" bikes, as bike maintenance is so presumptuously called by the author, and doing the basic maintenance myself (I don't remember the name of the book, alas, only that it was yellow and the guy on the cover was not Langley).

In the Netherlands, though, if you set foot in a bike shop, you're going to be out at least €10--that's the minimum that places charge for a repair, no matter how small. Dutch name-brand bikes (Gazelle in particular, though Batavus is also popular) are built like tanks, and in combination with the generally-well-maintained roads, they can be ridden until the paint falls off and the tread is completely worn away--and they'll still work. If for some reason you have to drop by a repair shop, it'll be the last time they'll ever see you for a few years. I've had more flats in six months in Philadelphia than I've had in my entire time in the Netherlands--and none at all with my current bike, which is now entering the second year of my ownership. I'll grant you that at first I didn't know how to change a flat properly, but even when I did, Philly streets apparently eat tires for breakfast. Flat tires are the one repair that, for my sanity, I'll always get done by a pro.

Bike shops are everywhere in the Netherlands, and most of them are reasonably priced for their repairs, although most of them also make you wait a few days or maybe a week or two to get your bike back. If it's a fast repair you need, then take it to the bike shops that are associated with major train stations--they'll get you sorted out in a jiffy. Unlike regular shops, those bike shops are required to be open as long as the trains are running, and they've never made me wait longer than the next day to pick up my bike. Of course, they also charge a premium for speedy service, but being without a bike in the Netherlands is like being without a hand, and in my mind, well worth the €20 fee.

The other major blow to my cycling self-sufficiency in the Netherlands is the fact that all of the bikes I've ever owned (I'm on my fourth, which I have yet to ride to the point of breakage--which is why you never spend less than €200 on a bike) have a gear cover. Most bikes have their gears encased in a plastic shell--a necessity to keep the chains from rotting out from under you in a rainy climate, when most people store their bikes outdoors. The shells are not one seamless lump of plastic, formed over the gears. They just look that way--and for that reason, their dissection is best left to the experts. I love being able to ride a bike without grease stains too much to randomly tinker with that.

Still, the Metro reported a while ago that the number of bike mechanics was steadily dropping, saying that the old-timers were dying or retiring and the young blood just wasn't there--not enough interest. I find that hard to believe, especially given the demand in the Netherlands. Sure, it may not be difficult to do, but there's nothing like three-day-old grease stains embedded in your skin to make you reconsider reaching for your wrench. Unless you're like me, and like that sort of stuff.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just Blend

In many ways, you can view this blog and all of its entries as "things NOT to do when you're in the Netherlands". Recipes for scrumptious asparagus aside, the things I should have done but didn't and should not have but did are worthy of a Loreena McKennit dirge. It's not that I'm lax about following rules--to the contrary, I plan our weekly meals out well in advance and recently acquired a white board, which I marked up with permanent marker, in order to plot out a schedule of things to do when and where and with whom. However, I am also terribly lazy about researching things in advance--I blame my career choice, which is technically as a scientist. Research, to my mind, is something you do before you write papers, and not before meeting someone for drinks, even if it is your first borreltje.

The hive mind of the Dutch is something that I've alluded to several times--that inborn ability to know when it's coffee time (10-11), to set out your trash next to the one pole but not the other, and to get a twinge of nostalgia when you see games like "Ganzenbord", even if you've never played it before. Anthropologists call it "culture", but the level of indoctrination runs so deep that if the queen of the hive mind (not necessarily Beatrix) were to croak tomorrow, the chaos (inasmuch as the Dutch are able to withstand it) would be catastrophic. Trains would be delayed, and buses would be dirty--oh noes!

All joking aside, I am a terrible conformist. Oh, I'm more than happy to play along and be a good little Dutchie for a little while, until I get bored. That's when trouble--or rather, inspiration--begins:

Most people assume that I would be biking to my new job, which is a fair assumption, seeing as how it's 2 km away by Google Earth(that's a little over a mile for my American readers). The idea that I would have the audacity to walk that distance, on the other hand, was apparently novel enough that I found myself repeating that intention over and over yesterday, when I met my new colleagues for the first time. It's a twenty-minute walk--not a bad distance, and the neighborhood isn't dangerous, although it is true that I'd say that about any neighborhood that's not North Philly--working in and riding through a notoriously bad neighborhood dramatically skews your perception of what's dangerous. My mother would probably have a fit if she knew I was walking anywhere in the dark.

I suppose it was just as well that I didn't mention my real intention to the inquisitive multitudes, which involves in-line skates and taking advantage of the satin-esque, well-groomed and substantial bike paths between my new workplace and our apartment. It really would be very nice--the paths get enough traffic that they're mostly clear of debris, and the one path stops almost at the door of the very building I'd be working in. I did finally get myself a pair of in-line skates, fulfilling a four-year itch for Rollerblading action, and though it took me a little while to work out how tight everything needed to be and get my skating legs back, I'm at that point where I could realistically go to work on eight wheels instead of two.

But there's a difference between intent and action, and odds are I'd probably do all three--ride on the days when I need to pick up more Tweeb food (hooray for panniers), skate on the days when I have Dutch lessons in the evening, walk on the days when I don't. After all, a life of not-conforming can be boring as well--although given that NaNoWriMo is fast approaching, the extra bit of inspiration might not be a bad thing....

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fluff 'n Stuff

So about two weeks ago, the Tweeb got sick and we dragged her to the vet for observation and treatment. What I didn't tell you is that, when she came back from the vet, she promptly had her vengeance, and wet the bed. And pooped in it. Twice.

Needless to say, the peas who sleep in this pod were not amused. The bed got stripped, and everything that could be sent to the cleaner's was sent--it wasn't that stinky, truth be told, but since Karel has rarely had his comforter cleaned, we decided that it was time. The cleaner's around here typically charges by weight, but they have special pricing methods for comforters and pillows. It ended up costing close to €50 for everything to be cleaned, but we counted the money as worthwhile, knowing that everything was pee-free and dust-mite dandy.

At least, until I started sleeping in it.

My allergies raised unholy hell that first night we got the covers back. In the mornings, I'd make the bed and then end up taking to it, because I'd sneeze myself into exhaustion. Y'know how your body sometimes knows how to avoid things that you don't necessarily know? For the last few nights I'd been falling asleep on the couch, and then moving to the bed--hoping, I suppose, that once there I'd resume sleeping, rather than suffer the art of falling asleep while my sinuses got progressively more clogged. And to top it all off, the Tweeb peed on the comforter--not on the bed, which was unmade, but she actually went out of her way to wee on the thing--again on Wednesday. Sunday's bed-piddle was the last straw. I did what any self-respecting person would do with a cat that doesn't respect their property.

I went and bought new bedding, of course. In light of the fact that Karel's bedding is older than our relationship, it was probably just as well. The original idea was to go to IKEA and get a new mattress as well, but the new "luxe" mattress protector adds enough plushy-squishy feeling that Karel was happy enough to have that. But I'm happy to say that, after some apprehension, I was able to climb into bed last night, and sleep.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I Call This "Potato Redux....Redux"

The sentiment that the potato is the national vegetable of the Netherlands never feels more true than at the start of autumn, as the summer produce fades and the winter staples of stamppot and erwtensoep regain their places prominence in the Dutch diet. Your average Dutch diet, that is. Karel, besides sucking at being Dutch, has fallen head over heels for a potato salad that I concocted. This salad is a spin-off of a potato-green-asparagus salad that he'd made in the spring, back before I discovered steamed asparagus and all its orgasmic glory. Like everything else I enjoy cooking, it has only three essential ingredients (potatoes, smoked salmon, a mild onion), only one of which requires cooking. I wish I could say that some of it came from my mother as well, but truth be told her potato salad never quite tasted as good as this, and plus it was string-theory-complicated.

I've included a recipe for the mayonnaise that I make specifically for this dish. You could always use the stuff in a jar and just whisk some chopped dill into it; I always make it because we don't use mayonnaise that often, and stuff in a jar always goes south between potato salads. Obviously, know the risks of raw eggs before making this. Salmonella can be delicious, but it can also be deadly. That being said, if you're not pregnant, very young, very old, immunocompromised, or allergic to eggs, you'll probably survive.

Potato Salad

~1/2 kg vastkokend potatoes, cubed
1 shallot or 1/2 white onion (zoete uien)
100-200 g smoked salmon
1 Yowling Noodle
1 celery rib (optional)
Hardboiled egg (optional)

~1 Cup mayonnaise, with ~2 Tbsp dill mixed into it
string beans or broccoli or asparagus, if making an accompaniment

Peel and cut the potates into cubes no bigger than 1 inch (that's 2.5 cm) across. Dutch potatoes are annoying in that they are sometimes no bigger than a large pea, so when you buy them check the package and make sure it has a decent collection of large-ish ones (size of a baby's boot) to save yourself some effort. I use a cheese-slicer-thing to peel the potatoes, drawing the blade towards my thumb. The advantage of this is that the peels will not fly all over the place and you can save a ton of clean-up time by dumping the peels directly into a bowl. The disadvantage is that you lose a relatively large amount of edible potato, but still less than you would if you used an aardappelmes.

Cook the potatoes. You can either put them in boiling water for about 10 minutes, or microwave them for 7. The advantage of boiling is that you can steam the vegetable (string beans, broccoli, or asparagus) at the same time (8, 5, and 10 minutes, respectively). Regardless of how you opt to cook your taters, you must use vastkokend potatoes--kruimig potatoes will disintegrate when you try to toss them later. While the potatoes are cooking, finely chop the shallot or white onion. Cut the smoked salmon into strips. Do not stab the cat. Do not add his little furry butt to the salad. Do cuddle him and give him a smidge of salmon--outside the kitchen--and then shut the door. Ignore.

Cut the celery into small cubes, and slice the egg, if using. When the potatoes have finished cooking, drain them and let them sit on the counter for about 15 minutes or so, to cool off a bit. Toss everything together and let them chillax in the fridge for an hour or two.

Mix about 1 cup of mayonnaise into the salad, toss well. Rewarm the accompanying vegetable. Serve. Fend off one hungry Noodle. Threaten to send him back to the dierenasiel. Toss him a sliver of salmon anyway.


1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt (maybe less, depending on your taste)
Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp mustard of choice
1-2 Tbsp honey
~1 Cup oil (depends on the size of your egg)
handful of chopped fresh dill

Good strong arm and wire whisk
hand mixer, set to "low"
Heavy bowl
plastic wrap

Whisk everything except the oil and dill together in the bowl. Still whisking, add the oil to the slurry drop by drop. When about 1/2 C is left, you can start adding it spoonful by spoonful. You may need some more oil to get the consistency right. When it's right, add the dill and mix well. Put it in the fridge; cover it with a skin of plastic wrap. I alternate between using the whisk and the hand mixer--when my arm gets tired, that's when I switch.

My choice of oil is either sunflower, canola, or what's called sla olie, for salads. Olive oil, besides being pricey, is very dense, and furthermore it gives the mayo a weird flavor. I suppose you could give it a try if you wanted.