Tuesday 29 March 2016

We're making an entirely noord-sourced kraut and it's not entirely a gimmick

The idea was in equal parts meant to make things simple and to shut me up. Not to use the broken record saying but I sounded like a broken record — nowhere to eat once you’re out of Amsterdam, your best bet of eating something honest is to have a herring, why are we eating tomatoes that don’t taste anything like tomatoes, and how is it that the further from Amsterdam you go (sorry, it’s my point of reference), the plates transform from being round to rectangular? I suppose that this might be considered a peculiarity worth laughing about in a less grave situation but as it’s to do with dinner, the situation is very grave indeed. 

How come there’s been no PR whizz whizzy enough to market stampot as a, if not national dish, then at least a very important one, present at all occasions you'd invite your family to instead of all of us just sort of knowing it is in private? Why, after 4 winters of stampot weather, do I know of only two places that make an excellent one (any tips?); one of which is the furthest north you can get even hellbent, in Groningen? Same goes for sauerkraut: where’s that at? If I want to eat kraut outside the dark cave in which I store my frustration I have to go to a surinamese restaurant where the tradeoff is that the staff think I’m a heathen for ordering the menu-permanent (thank all my gods) dish of zoutvlees and kraut with a roti. I’d say it was embarrassing but I can’t grasp the magnitude of my mistake I'm that much part heathen. I just know that while I’m defending my actions they’re rolling their eyeballs.

So why, suggests Alex, don’t we make a kraut sourced entirely from things grown in Amsterdam Noord? More, I believe, for the fact he’s the sort of person who likes to make everything into a game rather than the type to seize the (PR) opportunity to elevate sauerkraut into some locally-sourced half god hovering in the space between the farm and your table. Not that I’d put it past him.

Uh because people probably don’t really like kraut?

And you probably don’t. Kids all over the world don’t. My dad doesn’t (and he’s German), my old housemates weren’t so crazy about it either, were you guys? My sister doesn’t and cats won’t touch it. So why would you? Why go in the face of all these indicators of what’s good in the world?

I’m not one to convince but a good sauerkraut can be great. Great because I’m not talking about out of the packet, yuck, white and sour, stuff. I’m talking about stuff that’s been schmoring in brown beer for more (consecutive) hours than I’m awake at one time until it’s the same colour as a kitchen cutting edges in the 70s. If it weren’t so against what’s good for our environment and animal welfare I’d list the amount of meat we throw in (only organic); describe how the fat impregnates each sliver of cabbage. How it all gets juicy-juicy and the apples get roasty-roasty. How if the inside of pot and the insides of the sausages bursted out resembles a mosh pit, it’s the juniper berries throwing the punches; the peppercorns (three colours) making your eyes water. Then there’s the crunch sound of the crackling bursting through the oven door that, as a kid sitting with my back to the oven as mom cooked, always made me think as a warning to sunbathers. Can you believe that people used to put olive oil on their skin?

Anyway, we thought, it would be fun to have a look to see what we can find in Noord. Anyway, we thought, it’s a sunny day. So we jumped our bikes and crossed the waters (wind!) looking for farms, which, once you’re past Durgerdam, you couldn’t miss if your life depended on it. We rolled behind tractors and around pot holes, tasted cheeses that smelled like the (farm) winds and tapped off fresh, raw milk from a sort of vending machine (85 cents a litre) that would be a hit at the Marqt. We now know that the breed of potato they grow in Noord is called Nicola and that the farm that we bought their last apples from use a copper solution to protect their trees and counter harmful insects with other insects. We kicked rotten Elstar apples through a field and counted the (surprisingly exotic looking) types of duck we saw. We gave pregnant mamma cows extra pets and whistled at the chickens in pants. The pigs largely ignored us. Pigs are intelligent. 

We’re cooking an entirely noord-sourced dinner at Oedipus Brewing on 1 April. There’ll be a chilled beetroot soup, kraut kraut kraut with duck-fat fried potatoes, a cheese course and homemade yoghurt with cinnamon and vanilla syrup poached apples. If you're a vegetarian you'll be eating tartiflette. Afterwards there’ll be dancing.

The milk is from a farm called Ons Verlangen. It's raw, you tap it and you should do it. 

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