The Dutch kitchen is quite simple: hearty “stamppots” [mash and stew] in Winter and raw herring in Summer. Cheese, on the other hand, is available all year round. It’s not for nothing that we’re fondly referred to as “kaaskops” [cheese heads]!

But even our personal favourite, the magnificent mature gouda, can do with a bit of spicing up every now and then. Not to mention those bland veggies… You know who you are curly kale! And broccoli and sprouts. What we need is oriental zest … exotic herbs and spices from the East. Unlike our Dutch East India ancestors, the spice trail we follow is less treacherous.
A taste of the Exotic in Holland

An hour aboard Muddy Boots, Diana, Tjitske and I are transported to the Bazaar aka “Zwartemarkt” [Black Market] in Beverwijk. Our senses are ready for the challenge. Entering the first hall, we discover to our dismay, that we hadn’t banked on the bargains.

The planned budget was way too low! I wanted to replenish our curry spices and buy a Maroccan (candle) lamp for the garden. Diana and Tjitske had other purchases in mind. Cosmetics, clothing, computers, … none of us realised how tempted we’d be to part with our cash. Gulp.

We met up with Debbie, and made our way to the Oriental section. Rows and rows of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables. Sparkly light fittings and buddhas. Incense and music. Before long we were wobbling our heads like Bollywood stars. Totally forgetting we were in Holland.

A bewildered young salesman gathered together 4kg’s of masala, chilli flakes, cinnamon, and the myriad of other ingredients on my little green post-it note. Having made his sale of the day, he let me pick out a free bag of spices. Garlic pepper? With some green herb in the mix? Diana rated it highly. Sold!

We visited various stalls and bartered with their attendants. I found a perfect lamp. Only, I’d just given all my cash for the spices. Deep in the secret crevices of my wallet, I found a big enough note. Yes please! Hope my honey loves it as much! Smiling, the salesman handed us a mixed bag of fruit and nuts and his business card for accommodation in Morocco. And our lamp.

After taking our spoils back to the car, we waved Debbie goodbye. She rode off with a bag on either side of her handle bars. We went back inside, and got tempted into Turkish pizza and mint tea. Like Cinderella’s, our clock was ready to chime its pumpkin-hour.

We popped into the Chinese hall. Wow, another world. Different smells. Diana felt homesick as she walked us through Indonesian vegetables and specialities. What a privilege of having someone with local knowledge! We spent more than we had. Note to self: shopping sprees with these ladies … dangerous!!

Our our way out, I did such a girly thing. The soft setting sun peered through the buildings, and a photo HAD to be taken. I then noticed the driver behind me. He was not amused. I drove up to the boom as quickly as I could. And messed it up completely. There was enough space to park a bus between my fingers and slot that swallows the tickets. Argh! My cheeks flushed as loudly as my seatbelt choked me tight. I couldn’t open the door. We packed up laughing. Managing to extract ourselves, I retrieved a few millimetres of dignity.

We followed the scenic route home, along the dike between Enkhuizen and Lelystad. A beautiful sunset lingered. Delightedly recalling our day, we felt as though we were floating on a magical carpet, – grateful for the spices that broaden our palates.