Giving Parties….Dutch Style

It’s one of those things you look forward to when you find yourself in a new country. Making new friends, inviting them over to your place for a BBQ or dinner and getting invited over to theirs in return. However, with one except, it seems our luck runs out every time it involves the Dutch.

You see, back home in Ireland, or when I was living in Finland, Germany, Switzerland or Ukraine, if you were invited to someones place for a dinner party, it was customary to bring along a bottle of vino and maybe flowers (depending on the country’s protocol) for the lady of the house. The only major exception to that rule was perhaps a BBQ. In which case it was generally still BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) and never “BYOM” (The M meaning Meat). Until, that is, we moved to the Netherlands.

The Dutch are generally a nation of tight arses. So firstly it’s not that often that you get invited to their place at all. If you do, and if there is no “BYOM” in the invite, then you should eat a hearty meal at home first because all you’re going to enjoy is a very awkward, boring and stuffy “nibbles and drinks” do. What’s that I hear you say? Yes, canapes and crackers, potato salad and bitterballen….in a nutshell, fingerfood, along with some €2 bottle of crap bought in Lidl and bottles on hangover inducing Heineken. If there IS to be any real food involved, then two scenarios present themselves.

Scenario 1. BYOM – Bring Your Own Meat and cook it yourself. The Dutch man has no real interest in cooking on a BBQ, unlike his Irish, British, Aussie or American counterparts. My own theory is that due to the amount of hair gel they use, it’s probably an accident waiting to happen and probably a wise decision to avoid any naked flames, lest his hair catch fire. Irish and British men revel in the thought that they get to cook meat on an open flame. There is something almost primordial about men and BBQ’s. It’s the only type of cooking a real man will do. When a man volunteers to do the BBQ the following chain of events are put into motion:

1) The woman buys the food.

2) The woman makes the salad, vegetables, and dessert.

3) The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill — beer in hand.

Here comes the important part …..

4) THE MAN PLACES THE MEAT ON THE GRILL.

5) The woman goes inside to organize the plates and cutlery.

6) The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is burning.

He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he deals with the situation.

7) THE MAN TAKES THE MEAT OFF THE GRILL AND HANDS IT TO THE WOMAN.

8)The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table.

9) After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes. And most of all ….

10) Everyone PRAISES the man and THANKS him for his cooking efforts.

11) The man asks the woman how she enjoyed “her night off.”

And, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there’s just no pleasing some women.

In a Dutch BBQ, it’s usually the guests that were invited to the BBQ in the first place doing all the cooking, whilst the hosts slowly get more and more intoxicated sucking back on beers or fruity white wines and showing the guests where everything can be found in their kitchen.

Scenario 2. Invite YOURSELF to dinner. This one happened to us also. A good friend of ours, who is a dab hand in the kitchen, has always brought up the idea of meeting for dinner whenever we met for beers and the like. Usually we’d meet for beers and end up eating out somewhere. The topic of his latest culinary feats would come up in conversation, which would always end with a “You should come over to my place for dinner some time” type invitation.

The frustrating thing is, we still haven’t HAD dinner at his place. This is despite the fact that he continues to experiment and post photo’s of his latest culinary endeavours on Facebook. What HAS happened though is him calling me up one day, asking how I am, suggesting dinner, me giving him dates that we were free and he inviting HIMSELF over to OUR place for US to cook for HIM. When I hung up the phone, I found myself asking “How the fuck did that just happen”? He came over with his girlfriend, Herself prepared a fantastic meal, and everyone enjoyed themselves (except for me as I had to do the washing up afterwards).

However, we have still not yet mastered the art of inviting OURSELVES over to HIS place. Either he’s too clever to get caught out, or maybe we’re too polite, I don’t know.

For now though, we play it safe. We have one Dutch friend who gets the “dinner party” concept, and that’s because he’s lived abroad for ages. Everyone else is either an expat or a Dutchie married to an expat. In the case of the latter, they follow the usual civilised rules, such as “not getting your guests to cook their own dinner” that their spouses have grown up with.

As for the BBQ’s? I used to always bet good money on a Aussie BBQ being a well catered event. That is, until we experienced our first ever Braai. Without a doubt, the South Africans know their meat and how to cook it. Cheers Bru!!

Now, where did I put the matches? 🙂

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