Feature Foreign Food (and Word): Hagelslag…Lekker!

Believe it or not, my last post featuring the very foreign (practically alien) cauliflower-like vegetable Romanesco didn’t draw in the readers. Okay, alright.  I can understand that. If I couldn’t get my husband and daughter to be that excited about eating a strange vegetable, I guess I should have assumed it would be difficult to entice people to read about it.  So, this post, I’m going with CHOCOLATE.

Ah, chocolate.  Some many ways to enjoy you.  I have to admit that, normally, I may be a bit high-brow in my choice of chocolate.  I blame my mother.  Her truffles set such a high bar that I feel a responsibility to try truffles where ever I go, if only to prove that–yes–mama knows and does best.  But, here in the Netherlands, hagelslag lets me enjoy chocolate like a kid.

Hagelslag are basically chocolate sprinkles, or jimmies as some people call them.  Not so foreign, perhaps, but in this case it’s not the food that is foreign but rather the use of it.  Rather than sprinkling it on top of ice cream as Americans do, the Dutch–adults and children alike–eat it on top of bread and butter, sometimes even making a sandwich of it, for breakfast and often for lunch!(This delectable photo is from the blog The Eaten Path, which also has a great post on this phenomena.)

Hagelslag, which in Dutch is based on the word for “hail”, comes in many different flavors and colors. In particular, the blue or pink ones are used upon the birth of a child. It also comes in different price points, as they say: there’s both cheap hagelslag and high-quality hagelslag.  For example, I learned online that “only hagelslag with a cacao percentage of more than 35 can bear the name chocolat hagelslag. If the percentage is under the 35%, it has to be called cacao fantasy hagelslag.”  Cacao fantasy?  Hilarious. So, when I tried it, I went for a good brand in a dark chocolate version.  I also followed recommendations and used white bread as the base (why, really, try to convince yourself that this is anything but dessert by using whole-wheat?), toasted and buttered it, and ate it immediately after the hagelslag had just slightly melted.  And, the verdict?

Lekker!!!  “Lekker” means “delicious” in Dutch and I really can’t think of another word in any language that more perfectly sounds like it should mean delicious.  Take a second and say it out loud:  ˈlɛ.kər.  Doesn’t it have a nice smacking feel?  When I first learned the word lekker in the Fast Dutch course I took before moving here, I immediately loved it.  To me, words like lekker seem like they should be universal–should cross languages and cultures–because how they feel in your mouth when you say them or how they sound in your ear when you hear them bring to mind their meaning exactly.  Another word I’ve come across like this is “kwan.” It’s a word used in a number of Filipino languages and it means “thing” and particularly something that you may have temporarily forgotten.  So, in English, it might better translate as “whatchamacallit” rather than just “thing.”  In addition you can modify kwan to mean a person’s name that you’ve forgotten, the equivalent of “what’s-his-name.” I love that word!  And, when I was trying to learn Cebuano while living in the Philippines, I REALLY loved it–what’s not like to like about a word that let’s you cover up that you don’t remember vocabulary you should have learned already while at the same time sounding like a local?!?  (Have you come across any words that you’ve loved precisely because they sound/feel like what they mean? If so, please post in the Comments–I’d love to learn more.)

So, there you have it folks, lekkere hagelslag – this month’s feature foreign food.  I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed “researching” it.


~ by Chela on January 9, 2012.

7 Responses to “Feature Foreign Food (and Word): Hagelslag…Lekker!”

  1. Yumm-o!

  2. Hi there- I’m a fellow FSO spouse and I have been meaning to send you this link for a great book that I’ve had on my shelf for a while (there’s a guide to Paris as well)- thought you might find it helpful and fun while navigating your new city! Gorgeous handmade goodies, both edible and wearable…

    • Thank you so much – I bought it right away. I’ve now hit most of the major tourist sites so this will be a perfect way to deepen my familiarity with Amsterdam, not to mention a treasure trove for family and friends visiting us. By the way, I just so happened to discover your blog last week, as well, so it was cool to hear from you. Best of luck to you and yours.

  3. My kids loved getting these sprinkles on their Dutch pancakes all the time and I remember seeing lunches at the school of just butter and rainbow sprinkles. To this day, as 10 and 16 year olds, they want to sprinkle everything — cookies, yogurt, cereal, bananas… And I totally agree with you about the word lekker. It is used in Afrikaans in South Africa — so much of Afrikaans has Dutch words and sounds — and we enjoy catching its use when we pop over the border from Mozambique. Thanks for writing so many bits about life in Amsterdam and The Netherlands — it was our first post, and hearing about it is like hearing from home.

    • Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you enjoy the posts. I’ve “fallen off the wagon” writing on the blog due to some recent travels but I have to get back to it…too much good food to still write about.

      • Yum! BTW, do you happen to have the book “Food Shoppers’ Guide to Holland” by Ada Henne Koene? I still have my copy even though we are almost four posts further down the road. It is a review of Dutch marketplace products– I found it so helpful when there and still use it as a reference.

      • No, I hadn’t heard of that book. Thanks for the recommendation!

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