Tuesday, May 01, 2007

20 Leaving Apeldoorn

De Kaasplank, Apeldoorn
other photos:

April 3-7: Leerdam-Buren
April 7-11: Buren-Ochten
April 11-15: Ochten-Wyler
April 15-18: Beek, Apeldoorn, Amsterdam
April 20-21: Leidsenveen, Amsterdam, Hardewijk
April 23-25: Apeldoorn
April 26-27: Zuider Zeepad

Apeldoorn, April 28--

Saturday is one of Apeldoon's three market days, and today's market is an unusual one: since the Marktplein is temporarily occupied by a kermis to help celebrate Queen's Day, the market stalls are set up in the city streets.

(The kermis is a huge, raucous collection of mechanized "fun rides": dodge-'em cars, whirligigs, a fun house, a small Ferris wheel -- that sort of thing. In the old days I loved the dodge-'ems, but the whole area is so noisy now with obscenely amplified and pumpedd-up bass that even walking past the Marktplein is intolerable.)

It's our last day in downtown Apeldoorn, almost our last chance at any shopping, and we have a list: nagelkaas above all, but also gifts, sunscreen lotion, mail a letter, get a bottle of wine... and bandanas. I never go anywhere without a bandana in my pocket, and the best are found in the Netherlands, where they're thought of as boerzakdoeken, farmer's handkerchieves. And so they are, I suppose, even in the USA; I always carry one because my father always did, and I suppose his did as well.

The Dutch bandana is generous, of course; its fabric is fairly heavy; its patterning (which must ultimately derive from Indonesian batik work) is often flamboyant (though occasionally, with more of a nod to Dutch constructivism, rational and geometrical); and the color had better be red. They come in black and white, and blue and white; but mine is always red.

We've been buying bandanas in the Apeldoorn market for thirty years now, I think; it's a tradition. We use them for napkins in the car, among other things. One is handy som tetimes for shading one's eyes against the sun. I'm known to tie one over my hair when I'm spraying the fruit trees. They mop up spilled wine when we're careless, and when they're worn out they even make good penwipers. I use one to wrap the photograph of my parents and the little painting that I carry with me on trips. And, of course, they're always there for blowing one's nose, if necessary.

I don't like it when they wear out, though, and it's a good thing they last so well. Only once have I smiled at losing one: that was when I'd forgotten one in a farmhouse B&B in Groningen, and the farmer's wife came running and waving it from her side the slot or little canal that separated her from us as we were mounting our bicycles to wheel on to the next town one morning.

Tie a stone in it, I called, and fling it across! So she did, carefully knotting the corners, and whirled it round and round her head, and flung it straight up into the air, and it fell down splash into the middle of the slot, and there was nothing to do but laugh about it, and ride away.

We'd been to the bandana stall here a week or so ago and bought eight or ten, one in each pattern of the red ones that they had, even a couple of oversize commemorative ones with the Dutch arms or the Apeldoon city device on it. The bandana lady was veery helpful and affable, and when we saw yet another one we wanted, after having already paid, she said, Take it as a gift. Two Dutch ladies who were waiting their turn looked a bit disapproving, I thought.

When we went to the market this noon we were a little worried about finding her. She said she'd be there, but maybe she wouldn't. She always goes to the Monday market, that's the biggest one, but she doesn't always go to Saturday, Anneke thought. We went down to the bottom of the market on Hoofdstraat, and then back to walk up and down Kanaalstraat, and sure enough there she was in the last booth we came to, a big stall with not only the bandanas but also sheets and pillows, towels, yardage, and even a few sewing notions, though they are mostly all in stalls that make a specialty of them: buttons, zippers, snaps, Velcro, needles, thread, thimbles -- for the Apeldoornse women are, apparently, great seamstresses at home.

And there was not our bandana lady but apparently her husband, which saved us a little embarrassment at being so eccentric as to buy another eight or ten bandanas after already having taken so many. And there at the next stall was an elderly lady wearing what appeared to be a sari or something of the sort, wrapping her entirely, with a head-scarf to match, all in white-and-blue bandana-print cotton.

There are a number of classic Dutch types: in Holland itself the blond, cherubic, fair-skinned ones, with peaches-and-cream complexions like those you think of as typcially English. The Frisians are even blonder, their cheekbones and eyebrows perhaps a little more angular. In Groningen and Drenthe you see darker people, thin in Groningen, more inclined to be stout in Drenthe, which lies on the German border. Toward the south, in Brabant and Limburg, you'll more often see shorter, leaner, darker people who I think of as more, well, southern.

And there is very often an exotic look, something about the eyes perhaps, that reveals the contribution of colonialism to the otherwise Dutch bloodline; and often too in towns and cities you see immigrants, from the ABC in the Caribbean -- Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao -- or from Surinam, or from the former Dutch East Indies. And more recently there is the large Turkish influx -- the mosque down by the railroad station is holding a bazaar this weekend of their own, and I'm sorry we haven't worked in time to visit it.

All these people shop together in the market. I don't know whether they mix much otherwise: I didn't see foreigners (except ourselves) at church last Sunday, and we haven't seen them in the restaurants we've gone to. But they do shop together, at the market and in the conventional shops. And when we were through marketing and walked up the Hoofdstraat toward the cheese shop and ran into an affable young man with orange hair who was handing out literature about some product or other and we stopped to talk to him, I noticed two pretty young women also standing by, one in a head scarf.

He was concerned about people's health: specifically, how fat they were. He asked my height and weight and age and entered them into a hand-held computer, and then he instructed me to hold a small device with two metal handles out away from my body and wait while a very low current ran from one handle to the other, through all my internal body-fat; and he very seriously figured out the results.

Even after cheese for breakfast, lunch, and occasionally dinner, even after three-egg uitsmijters, everything is just barely above acceptable, the young man says. Imagine my relief.Lindsey took her turn; and then, as we were walking away, I looked back to see the two pretty young women were taking theirs. We celebrated by going on the Kaasplank, the local cheese store, and buying a healthy chunk of nagelkaas to take back with us.

Kaasplank -- the name means simply "Cheeseboard" -- is a fine store; it's one of a score or so mentioned nationwide for its quality and variety. Even so, the women here did not know about Remeker cheese, which I'd been looking for -- an aged Dutch cheese listed on the Slow Food "Ark" for its tradition and its quality. We found it a few days ago, though, at a shop specializing in organic food; and there we learned it's made in a very nearby town, just a few kilometers southwest, the nearest town, in fact, to the geographical center of The Netherlands. Remeker is serious, deep, subtle, and complex, and I'm glad we found it. But we won't be bringing any home: that store lacks the necessary vacuum-sealing machine.

Dinner Saturday night was at Auberge Navet (Arnhemseweg 350; tel. +31.055.541.8664), pleasant enough, rather romantic, quiet, in an old building that once served as the toll house on the road south to Arnhem. Here we had white asparagus with salmon two ways (smoked; barely seared), with a nice cumin-dill sauce; and I went on to something the menu called "brasem," even the English-language menu, and the waitress said was dorade, but which Anneke's big Dutch dictionary tells us later is a carp-like river fish -- but it was sweet and flaky, tasting not at all like a bottom-feeder. And then for dessert a generous assortment: crème brulée for me, with a scoop of delicious farmhouse yoghurt ice cream with melon slices and spun sugar; for Lindsey strawberries with strawberry ice cream and Bavarian cream...

One other restaurant to mention, and then I'm done: 't Posthuis (Konigstraat 1, tel. +31 055.521.3997). Like le Navet, 't Posthuis is quite, romantic, and rather classic, and situated in a historic building, used as a horse-exchanging station on the old postal routes. It has the further advantage of being just across the street from the apartment we're staying in.

A dozen people were eating, in couples, and one elderly man was alone except for his polite terrier, who slept most of the time under his table. One cook in the kitchen; two girls serving -- our waitress a very timid girl, uncertain of her English and unclear because far too quiet in Dutch. Here my salmon tartare came with an odd but tasty Dutch-Indonesian version of guacamole, with cumin substituting for chile pepper; Lindsey's bouillon was as deep and well-balanced as it had been at le Navet; and my sliced roast beef, with a bit of braised beef shank on the side, was nicely garnished with strong forest mushrooms, snow peas, and -- what else -- asparagus and potatoes.

Lindsey had the classic Dutch white-asparagus plate, with sliced ham, hard-boiled egg, and minced parsley, with all the drawn butter anyone could ask. And dessert was house-made ice cream -- a fine eggy French vanilla and a light frozen chocolate mousse -- with a very nice brownie on the side. It was our final Apeldoorn dinner, and except for Anneke's cooking at home I think it may have been my favorite.

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