Before I moved here, my friends wanted to know about the food. Some didn’t have a clue and some had heard that it was not very good. After all, I wasn’t moving to France or Italy, right? This was the Netherlands and it was famous for cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. But what about meals, what do the Dutch eat exactly?

Most of the meals are similar to what Americans eat, except they are smaller portions and seem healthier. The grocery stores look like the American ones, except they are not as massive. The frozen food section is much smaller: there are frozen pizzas and dinners, but the variety is a lot less. As an example, in my former American store there was an entire aisle of ice cream…I would say about 30 shelves of ice cream, at minimum. Here there are maybe 5 shelves at the most.  

In America there are hundreds of cereals to choose from and here, there are just a few and they are mainly American products with new names. Cereal is not very popular here, they prefer toast with jam or Nutella or peanut butter or sprinkles. They seem to love chocolate for breakfast.

Nutella, which is sold in the U.S., is a chocolate nut spread that is eaten on bread, mainly toast. You can also butter a piece of toast and layer it with sprinkles. These are larger sprinkles than what Americans put on their ice creams (they look like ants on steroids), and they come in a variety of flavors, but the most popular is chocolate.  Today I went to a small store and saw 8 shelves of only sprinkles.  They come in dark and milk chocolate, vanilla, fruity pink, mocha and even gingerbread.  This is a sprinkle loving country.

The Dutch don’t eat large breakfasts and if they do, it must be a holiday or some kind of event. They don’t eat French toast, waffles or pancakes to start their day (they do have their own pancakes and they are eaten for dinner). Breakfast is a very simple fare.

However, the Dutch love omelets and they are eaten for lunch and dinner. Omelets are pretty standard for most menus in this country, just not at breakfast time. Why is that?  Because it is very unusual to find any place open for breakfast. Eating breakfast out is just not done. In America we have breakfast meetings and we find it is a good way to visit with a friend. Here, McDonald’s and Burger King serve breakfast. And if you are traveling the roads, you will find some places serving breakfast at the rest stops. 

In America, it is common to go out for Saturday or Sunday breakfast with the family. And there are numerous places that are open at 6am, that serve coffee, bagels, and sometimes a full breakfast. I am guessing that the belief here is that going out is just not necessary or financially smart, when you have perfectly good food at home.

The Dutch love coffee and tea and they drink plenty of it. But there are not thousands of travel cups here filled with a morning jolt. You don’t see drivers stuffing their faces with  donuts or trying to sip their Dunkin Donuts super size ice coffee. And you won’t see bicycle riders eating and drinking their breakfast. Bikes do not have cup holders for hot drinks.  I have seen riders smoke, talk on a cell phone, lick an ice cream cone and even carry a pizza, but I have never seen them eat a muffin and drink a café latte while pedaling to work. 

So what have I learned about breakfast in the Netherlands? They eat at home, they don’t eat that much and they enjoy some sweetness in the morning. What a nice way to start the day.  Whether they are getting on a bike, a train or driving a dinkie car…when you see them in the morning, you know that they have had their first meal of the day, thank you very much.

Recommended reading:  Breakfast with Scot by Michael Downing

                                            Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

                                           Bachelor brothers bed and breakfast by Bill Richardson

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  • Aledys Ver  On April 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Well, what can I say when it comes to comparing Dutch breakfasts and what I used to have back home in Argentina! Our style of breakfast is closer to what they normally have in southern Europe, so Dutch breakfasts were a novelty for me, too. Since my (Dutch) husband was not used to having anything for breakfast at all, it was easy to just keep having the same I used to have back home.
    As for supermarkets: when I go back on holidays, I tend to go to the supermarket at least once a day, just for fun! 😀 The aisles seem so much bigger, and longer and there’s more variety of just about everything.
    Here in the NL I like shopping in small shops and even in “boerderijen” – produce is so much more fresh and better quality! Back home that would be a bit difficult, since the city where I used to live is too big and rather far away from any kind of farm.
    Nice post!!

  • Loree Griffin Burns  On April 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Miss Catherine thinks sprinkles on toast sounds like a divine breakfast!

  • Kathleen  On April 19, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    I’ve always loved when you refer to something as dinkie 🙂 …enjoying your travels when I finally sit down to catch up!

  • Jane Moore Houghton  On April 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    I want sprinkles for my birthday. And, like Kathleen (above) when you use the word dinkie I can hear you say it and make your fingers show just how dinkie…makes me miss you xo

  • Nancy Polsky  On May 4, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Hi Jane, love your blog, miss you tons! Bfast in Israel is very similar, was never a good day if I couldn’t start with just European coffee and a small but delectable pastry! good thing I was walking and active so much! Miss you, drop me an email!

  • Pied Piper  On June 10, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Nutella is one of the main food groups. We always have a few jars in the cupboard, because someone like to lick a spoonful while watching TV. And it isn’t the blonde one. Nutella just might be the most perfect chocolatey stuff in the universe!

  • Jane Dutton  On July 15, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Its a very good reading for people as me.
    and its very good again


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