Friday, 30 August 2013

Foodie Penpals: August Reveal

This month's Foodie Penpal parcel is brought to you courtesy of the amazing sunshine that we have been having here in Cornwall this summer. I didn't need to take photographs of the package out on our balcony, but it was too pleasant outside not to.

The parcel was put together by Saskia Jager of The Netherlands. I've now had several penpals from Holland, and I am amazed by how different each of their parcels has been (though all have involved sausage--the Dutch must really love sausage). I believe that Saskia is my first penpal from the Friesland area, which is on Holland's northern coast.

Saskia included both a handwritten note on a postcard and a lengthier typed message describing each of the items in the package and, where necessary, providing some explanation of how things should be eaten.

You might think that food is pretty straightforward and doesn't require any explanation, but actually I needed some help right away, with the De Ruijter Specials. I would have thought these were for decorating cupcakes or other sweet baked goods, but evidently they are for adding a bit of flavor to toast at breakfast or lunch. I haven't opened the package yet, but judging from the picture on the front, the Specials are basically chocolate sprinkles (or hundreds and thousands, as the British would say). How interesting. I will have to whip these out one morning when I hear my sweet tooth calling.

The Fryske Dumkes ('Friesland thumbs') are little anise-flavored biscuits, and they are lovely. I've been having a couple with my tea every night after dinner. I will be sad when the package is empty, but I suspect that I could hunt down a recipe and replicate these myself. The red, white, and blue heart pattern on the box is derived from the Friesland flag, which features seven little red hearts representing the old Friesian countries (or, at least, so says Wikipedia).

Also utterly delicious were the droge worst and Old Amsterdam cheese. I admit, I was a bit hungry when I opened the parcel, so I immediately sampled the sausage sticks...and just kept on going until they were done. They were so good that I got online and ordered several more packs from a Dutch shop. The entire website was in Dutch, and I kept copying the text and pasting it into Google Translate so I could figure out what was going on. Fingers crossed I actually ordered what I think I ordered, and that I sent it to the correct address!

The Old Amsterdam cheese is kind of like a cross between cheddar and Edam, only a bit harder and drier than both--more the texture of Parmesan. It is very tasty, and good with both savory things like crackers, and sweet things like fruit. Cheese is the main reason why I will never have six-pack abs, but when it tastes as good as this stuff does, it's totally worth the swap.

Saskia also included several potables. There was a box of Pickwick brand speculaas-flavored tea that basically tasted like Christmas in a cup. Speculaas are popular Dutch biscuits (I've received them before in previous Foodie Penpal parcels, and boy are they addictive), and Pickwick is the same brand that made the amazing caramelized pear tea that I received a couple months ago. So, right off the bat, I knew that this stuff would be good.

There was also a giant teabag meant to be brewed not in a cup or pot, but in a bathtub; it contains herbs that are supposed to help me relax. I'm saving that for when I'm feeling particularly stressed and need a bit of home spa treatment.

The last beverage is a pre-mixed alcoholic drink called Sonnema Cola. According to the company's website, Sonnema is a spicy drink that goes well with Coke because it is a "delicious combination of gin, herbs, and citrus." You are supposed to serve it with a slice of lemon, and although the website says it is good for drinking at the pub or disco, Saskia also mentioned that people often drink these cocktails when they've come in from the cold--after a day of skiing, for example.

As though all that weren't enough, the parcel also contained a little bag of hard candies, a small chocolate bar shaped like a peat brick (because it comes from a peat-harvesting region), and a pair of tiny ceramic clogs. Obviously the clogs aren't for eating, but my goodness are they adorable. (They've also inspired me to include a similar Cornish trinket in some of my future Foodie Penpal packages...)

Although I've still never been to Holland (outside the Amsterdam airport, that is), all my experience with Dutch food is beginning to make me feel as though I know something about the country. My FP parcels are no substitute for an actual trip to The Netherlands, but for now they will do the trick. Thanks very much to Saskia for giving me a glimpse and a taste of Friesland!

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