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Saturday at Amsterdam's Noordermarkt
by Dan Geddes
They say you can get the best apple-pie in Amsterdam on Saturday at the little café on the Noordermarkt. I get mine smothered with plenty of slagroom (whipped cream) to dunk the last pieces of piecrust in, and a cappuccino.
Apple-pie is but one gastronomical delight you can find at the Noordermarkt, the biological market held each Saturday on the Prinsengracht near the Brouwersgracht. Not only is the food better, but I also give myself good karmic pats on the back for being so good and wholesome and environmentally sound by buying from farmers. I go there nearly every week, often taking my son, Andrew, along.
At the fruit-stand, the boxes of apples are stacked up deep red, flashing with yellow and green specks and stripes. Some betray small worm holes, but these I see as reassuring evidence that pesticides were not used. And then some berries. Black, blue, sweet, sour.…Yes, some bananas and that will do it.
The cheese stand next door has free samples, and Andrew squeezes in to get what is coming to him. Mercifully, he has avoided the blue cheese in front for the Gouda further back. He looks pleased with the young cheese, but way too soon he asks where can he get "a little taste of worstje?"
There's a few biological butchers on the Noordermarkt, but they do not dole out samples as liberally as the cheese stands. No matter for Andrew. After my purchases he asks the butcher for a proefje himself, and is rewarded for his cheek. We hear the sounds of the inevitable Peruvian trio playing flute, drums, and guitar.
The produce stand is the most difficult. It contains the most items on my list, some of which, like rutabaga, I may not know the Dutch name for, leading to linguistic embarrassment. Worse, it is right next to the crêpes stand, where the smells of sizzling, buttery, batter, as well as the sheer injustice of seeing other kids eating crêpes, has drawn in Andrew. Meanwhile, I develop the suspicion that not all of these bright-colored organic vegetables that I am now buying will ever get cooked and eaten.
The mushroom stand remains a curiosity for me. While I like mushrooms, I have never developed more than a skeletal taxonomy of white and dark, with porcini, portobello, shitake, and chanterelle somewhere beneath. I'm clearly not qualified to shop here. One time I had bought regular champignon mushrooms, and it was obvious the cashier thought my purchase was uninspired.
Andrew runs ahead to the playground. Kids are climbing all over the monkey bars and the slides. Parents are sitting on green benches, many sipping from coffee cups taken from a near-by (though not visible) café. Others are eating hot kibbeling met knoflooksaus (fried battered white fish with garlic sauce) from the vishandel. I am envious, and look down sadly at my heavy bags of cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots, which offer no immediate gratification.
I pull Andrew off the playground with loud promises of hot fish delight. We head over to the legendary Vollendam Vishandel, which comes every Saturday. I order garnalenkroketten (shrimp croquettes) for Andrew, one of which I hand to him on the spot as be-good bribery.
For Maria I order shrimps in hot sauce. For myself I procure three large raw herring, as well as some supplemental kibbeling and lekkerbek, just so that I don't starve to death.
Lunch in hand, I buy a baguette and two bunches of flowers and we head home.