Perhaps the biggest difference in the dietary lifestyle between Americans and their Dutch counterparts is the inclusion of gluten. Unlike the Paleo and low-carb dieters that I had grown accustomed to in the states, the residents of Holland love their bread!
In fact, bread is such an integral part of the culture that it's the centerpiece of two of the three meals of the day and constantly accompanied by a wide array of toppings and additions that are ubiquitous throughout the country. Let me take you on a brief tour of what to expect when it comes to the bread lifestyle of the Netherlands.
Before getting to the toppings, we'll have to pick out which loaf of bread to work with. Unfortunately, decision fatigue sets in quickly: all the grocery stores have bakeries in the back concocting a delicious selection of treats. Pick your poison!
First up there's the collection of fresh bread, baked and sliced on premises with a vast variety of different recipes.
Want to buy now buy enjoy it later? Then head on over to this wall, where you'll find packaged loafs, rolls, and baguettes ready to place in the oven whenever you're ready.
If you'd like to indulge, there's no shortage of opportunities: 5 different types of croissants, freshly made turnovers, and sweet cakes greet me every time I walk into the store.
But if that's not enough, my neighborhood alone is graced by half a dozen bakers which produce artisanal breads, other types of croissants, and plenty of cakes to accompany tea time.
Such an ample supply of bread is equaled by a ridiculous spread of choice options to put on them. Most homes are equipped with a serving tray like the one you see here, which contains all of the necessary toppings, like Nutella, peanut butter, and hagelslag.
What is hagelslag you ask? Well, it's nothing more than the sprinkles you would normally find on top of a cupcake in the rest of the world. Yet somehow in Holland, it's socially acceptable to treat yourself to these sugary concoctions during breakfast.
It comes in an absurd variety of flavors.
Incredibly, the Dutch consume more than 30 million pounds of hagelslag each year!
Most of the other topping choices aren't outside the realm of normal imagination, but they astound with the amount of choice: jams, meats, cheeses, vegetables, egg salad, and more. The end result is usually something like this; despite all the other ingredients, bread remains the main feature.
Five months into my Dutch experience I've started to grown accustomed to this dietary change. At work I've joined the "lunch club", which provides me with all the bread and toppings I could ever want for just €2 per day. Although I try to remain healthy by opting for the chicken breast and avocado over the nutella and chocolate sprinkles, I've been known to enjoy my fair share of hagelslag from time to time. Until next time, happy eating!