November 29, 2016   //   International   //   By Joshua Bream

It was with great sadness that I had to inform my dinner mate one evening that unfortunately Americans do not put mayonnaise on French fries. My Dutch co-worker had never visited the United States and we were discussing some uniquely American and Dutch foods. We chatted about some Dutch staples bitterballen – pureed meat, rolled in a ball, and deep fried; kroket – a fried tubular object with a mix of gooey hidden gems on the inside; frinkandel – picture a hot dog with its skin ripped off and baked in the sun until dark brown; and kaassouffle – a flat version of the cheese stick, but with a classic Dutch cheese rather than mozarella. Can anyone say heart attack?

Oh, and that cheese we have always pronounced “Goo-Dah”, it’s pronounced “How-Da”. Like the French, the Dutch typically eat cheese at the end of a meal, basically in place of a desert. And like Gouda, the Dutch make a mean slice of cheese. Edam is also quite popular and rather than being eaten as desert, it is often lunch – between two pieces of white bread. Bread. Cheese. Bread. That’s a Dutch lunch. Also don’t think about sitting down to eat  – most of the time the Dutch take their lunch while walking or working – no two-hour martini lunches here.

The Dutch also make the American classic apple pie look like the last place contestant at a baking competition. Their version, the appeltaart, is about as apple pie as an apple pie can get. The crust is a mix of dense biscuit with graham crackers and the filling is delicious and always based on grootmoeder’s (grandmother’s) recipe. In one word, delicious.

If baking an entire appeltaart is too much trouble and the Dutch need to satisfy their sweet tooth, especially at breakfast, then they might just reach for their container of hagelslag. This frightening sounding food is essentially sprinkles. Yup, that’s right, the Dutch put sprinkles, mainly chocolate, on anything breakfast. Most often it is literally just on a piece of bread. Bread + sprinkles = wholesome Dutch breakfast.

Need to feed your family in a pinch? Well, the always resourceful Dutch have an ingenious solution. While Americans love their crockpots, the Dutch love their stamppots. A stamppot is a one dish wonder that mixes mashed potatoes, vegetables, and meat into a stamped down mass of delicious food any toothless child or grandparent could enjoy.

While the Dutch do have some uniquely Dutch dishes, their culture really tends to be a melting pot of many different cultures and the restaurant scene demonstrates this fact. The city of Rotterdam alone represents almost 170 unique nationalities; therefore whatever cultural mood you are in, there is a restaurant to match. The Dutch tend to go simple at breakfast and lunch, but when it comes to dinner they are quite adventurous and sophisticated gastronomes. They also take their time with dinner, no turn and burn here, the Dutch savor the experience to the very last minute. And not just 60 minutes, 90 minutes, or 120 minutes, we are talking a good 180 minutes for dinner – that is three hours translated. THREE HOURS!

I have to say, those three hours were some of the best experiences of my trip. Taking the time to break bread with so many wonderful and unique individuals here in this serene, yet vibrant city, was worth every minute. Rarely does life present you with an opportunity to meet a new person every night and to learn a little about what makes them tick. Listening to their stories and trying to find common connections half a world apart was a great experience.

It is amazing how similar and yet so different we all are. Some things we can all agree on. But then there are some on which we can never find common ground. French fries and mayonnaise do not belong together. And “American Frites Sauce” that is not a thing – well, at least not in America it isn’t.

Submitted by Global Exchange Employee participant Joshua Bream. Joshua recently spent time with Crowe Horwath Peak, a Rotterdam CPA firm.