Our latest sojourn was in Amsterdam. Olivia and I packed our bag and headed for this vibrant city full or vitality, creativity, and incredible food variety. From starting off our journey at the airport, we filled our delay with a lunch of sushi (for me) and a burrito (for her). Olivia associates this food as "a special treat" as we hardly eat out when in Edinburgh but when we do, sometimes we head to the burrito place. She couldn't have been happier. She killed that long wait with pleasure!
Upon arrival to our Airbnb we discovered a stocked fridge and an assortment of treats. Local chocolates, French wine, tea/coffee, organic yogurt, eggs, nuts... they must have known how much we enjoy eating! We had a bite and headed out to meet up with our good friend Baha - the impetus of our trip to Amsterdam. Baha and her mom were staying in town so Oli and I made our way over. We decided to have a meal at a seafood restaurant - I had lobster soup and steamed veggies and Oli shared some of Baha's seafood bisque and her mother's fresh whole seabass. A few fries were somehow sneaked in- to Oli's delight. We sat around for a while, relaxing into our chatter and cold Belgium beer. We topped off the evening with a gelato- Baha and Olivia have bonded over this indulgence many, many times. Watching them devour ice cream is adorable. During our trip, this dynamic duo had too many cones to count! Mint chocolate chip, vanilla, caramel, strawberry- Olivia does not discriminate!
The next few days, as we toured the city and surrounding countryside, we tasted such a variety of foods - like a UN food tour! We had Maoz falafel (the first of this chain was actually in Amsterdam) which consists of a pita filled with savoury chick pea balls and all the fresh toppings you can fit in--picked veggies, olives, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, dressing, fresh herbs...completely satisfying, and vegan. Chicken pesto with sprouted grains for one lunch, cod fritters and paella for another. We tasted about a dozen samples of the Middle Eastern sweet Halva (made from sesame seed paste): pistachio, pecan, chocolate, coconut...we could have stayed there all evening. We also sampled Edam truffle cheese, smoked Gouda and several other house-crafted cheeses on the village tour. And how could I forget the world famous stroopwafel literally "syrup waffle." The stroopwafel is a waffle made from wafer thin layers of baked dough with a caramel syrup filling in the middle. Stroopwafels are popular in the Netherlands, and were first made in the city of Gouda. Fresh and warm right out of the press- there's few things more indulgent.
My favorite meal was a vegetarian option of the Dutch-Indonesian speciality called rijsttafel- a Dutch word that literally translates to "rice table." It is described as an elaborate meal consisting of many side dishes served in small portions, prepared in several different ways. And served with rice, obviously.Popular side dishes include egg rolls, sambals, satay, fish, fruit, vegetables, pickles, tofu, tempeh, and gado-gado. Rijsttafels often feature an array of flavours and colours with degrees of spiciness and textures. These could include crispy, chewy, slippery, soft, hard, velvety, gelatinous, and runny. Every last side dish was truly delish. If you asked Olivia, she'd tell you that she preferred the coconut tofu, mango salad, and straight-up sticky rice. She did try most of the dishes which made me so proud! This sensory overload brought me back to my travels to Sumatra. We all have our food memories, some good and some bad. The taste, smell, and texture of food can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back memories not just of eating food itself but also of place and setting. Food is an effective trigger of deeper memories of feelings and emotions, internal states of the mind and body. I was on a journey within a journey.
Our last morning was bitter sweet. We ate our usual: fresh berries, yogurt and granola outside, under the fig tree, accompanied by our feline friend Ari. I couldn't resist one last time plucking a few ripe figs from above my head and savouring the honey sweet fruit at its finest. Memories being created. Long live the hippocampus!