Croquettes... nothing to write home about
You know I love ranting and raving about food... sharing effort-worthy recipes and life-altering food experiences. I get a kick out of inspirations for a great new appetizer... and am proud of our family's favorite dishes (a tough title to attain). But part of me shies away from critiquing food.
I wonder why. Perhaps because food finds its way onto tables due to people's effort. It doesn't just appear but is made quickly or carefully, after an honest day of work, in a smattering of culinary traditions. Who am I to judge? If the casserole tastes awful to me, perhaps another considers it a family favorite?
So my caveat or disclaimer---or whatever fanciful word fits---in putting food down, is simply that it is my opinion. When I don't like food, I simply don't like food. In fact sometimes I think it is deplorable: a waste of a good bite. Some of that comes from my own food traditions and favorites... in fact much of it rests with my history of food. What I grew up with, flavor profiles and spices that I am accustomed to, curiosities that have turned out for the better.
I envy those who grew up with fiery peppers and laugh in the face of habaneros; I wonder too, if the pastures of Indian curries or rich Thai dishes might sometimes be greener than our [family's] habitual Mediterranean fare. I guffaw at those who enjoy the texture of pates, eagerly consume blood-letting beef steaks and slurp down raw herring---whole. I wish I were so inclined brave.
But alas all I have is my palate, experiences, adventures and creativity when it comes to cooking and eating food. And therein lies my opinions. Yours will be yours. We all have our own food stories, our own culinary trail. I don't eat dog and never will, but I thoroughly enjoy lamb. I don't like the texture of clams, but small mussels in a red curry sauce? Sign me up. And I know just the restaurant... and so it goes.
And on this summer of cycling across the Netherlands [et al], our food experiences are growing. For example, the Dutch slurp down their herring and suckle salt-infused black licorice candies that made my own little family spit... right into the trash can. But the Dutch love it; they grew up with it and it is normal and enjoyable to them. I grew up with deviled eggs, coffee, zucchini: all good examples of you either love it or you hate it (I like all three!).
And here I am, cycling through various food traditions and cultures, trying new food off grocery shelves and in restaurants (our family is cycling for 3 months, read about it on family frolics). My culinary trail just became that much more interesting. Yet even here, I gravitate toward what is familiar (yep I order chicken before I order eel). Perhaps that is what sets me apart from Anthony Bourdain? (That and much, much more). But I keep him in mind, his adventurous palate, his willingness to see what is usual and great and fiery and... gross in other cultures. And he loves it. I, on the other hand, tread much more lightly.
While In Holland, frits and croquettes are abundant (I tried both). Frits are fries, and most commonly served with mayonnaise, though you have the option of a peanut sauce as well. In fact, mayonnaise comes with everything; it is served with a baguette at the beginning of the meal, along a skewer of chicken, with potatoes and fries. It is served with croquettes and calamari, and as a side to tostis (sandwiches).
Croquettes are just gross---and nothing to write home about. I am sorry, but to me and my kiddos: nastiness. And they are on almost every Dutch menu we encountered. I don't even know how to describe them, but will try. They are breaded, deep-fried balls (or sometimes in the shape of a mozzarella stick), filled with some scary mash of potatoes, white sauce and pulverized meat. Gooey grossness. Not even the mayo redeemed them. (In photo, they are the trio of fried spheres, front and center).
That isn't to say the Netherlands is devoid of good food; we have had some great food while cycling the last six weeks. My son Caleb is in love with Hagelslag (aka chocolate sprinkles with a purpose) and Oude Gouda (old Gouda cheese). And I had one of the best salads of my life in Maastricht... but that is another post for another day.