Den Haag, November 7, 2010—
WE ATE IN two suburbs of this Dutch capital today, in gatherings of the Dutch family that has been for nearly forty years almost a part of our family as well. At midday we were in Voorburg, where Tom and Judith were celebrating the 22d birthday of their son Jasper.
Tom and Judith are enthusiastic Italophiles, having spent an early year of their life together in Florence; so the table offered platters of prosciutto and salami and vitello tonnato and bottles of San Pellegrino and a nice Prosecco whose label unfortunately eluded me.
Then it was time to drive a few miles south to a newer suburb that began rising out of the cow-pastures twelve or fifteen years ago and is now almost mature with trees edging the park-like greens between rows of houses backing up to pleasant canals.
Here Tanja served us pannekoeken and poffertjes, treats much more often eaten out in country restaurants or poffertjekanten, special temporary cafés set up in parks in many towns in the summertime.
Pannekoeken are Dutch pancakes, big as dinner plates, thin almost as crèpes, often with various fillings. Tanja offered normaal or with bacon, and we drizzled ours with maple syrup brought by a Canadian friend and with stroop, the molasses-dark but thinner-textured burnt-sugar syrup the Dutch specialize in.
Poffertjes are not so easily explained. Here a tablespoonful of pancake-like batter, leavened with a bit of yeast I believe, is cooked in butter on a hot dimpled cast-iron range (pan, in the home), turned deftly once, and served by the half-dozen (or more) slathered with more good Dutch butter and liberally sprinkled with powdered sugar. They are very tasty.