Friday, September 12, 2008

Kruidnoten, slaves and presents


Finally, it's time for kruidnoten again. They are these like, little ginger-snappy cookies. If the Dutch have contributed nothing else to world cuisine, we can point to the kruidnoot.

They are also tiny, so you can eat a whole handful at a time and still not feel like it's a lot. They're also holiday food, so you can pretend it's like a requirement to eat them, and not feel guilty about the extra calories, since they are ubiquitous until the New Year. Or the Old Year, as they call it here.

In case they aren't sweet enough, some sick bastard got the idea to sell bags of them covered with chocolate. Dark, milk and white. I would have had some today since D bought a bag of them "for the kids" last night, but they were gone this morning. Kids didn't get any. Mom didn't get any. His sweet tooth is a problem.

Of course, the little cookies are just a harbinger of the big guy: Sinterklaas.

Here in Holland, he comes December 5 and gives gifts only to the children. The good children. The bad children get captured in burlap sacks by his minions and beaten. I love fairy tales.

So, Sinterklaas isn't Santa Claus, who the Dutch call the "Kerstman." He isn't chubby, but tall and Gothic looking with a bishop's robes. He doesn't fly a sleigh from the North Pole, he sails over on a boat from Spain - obviously. He rides a white horse and has black servants.

Let me say that again, only this time better - His "servants" are white people (usually) dressed up in blackface, complete with red lips and gold earrings. They are called Zwarte Pieten, or Black Petes, and are supposed to be chimney sweeps who are covered in ash. Bullshit. They are so obviously a racist throwback that it is insulting to even pretend there is an explanation.

So the Black Petes hand out kruidnoten and presents to the good little children in the main squares and in parties all over the country in the beginning of December.

I was horrified by all this weirdness when I first moved here, but like anything else, I've gotten used to it and it's almost become normal-ish. Like elves. And hookers. Hoe, hoe, hoe...