Boterham ≠ Sandwich

When I still lived in Holland a Canadian friend came to visit and we went to see my parents, in part because they lived in Enkhuizen, a wonderful tourist destination. At lunchtime my mother set the table with all the different sandwich toppings she had. My parents looked on in horror as my friend first put jam on her sandwich, then chocolate sprinkles, and then pink sprinkles on top of that!

A few years later I freaked out the first time T (then my boyfriend) used half of our week’s supply of sliced meat on one sandwich! I must have been really scary because he still talks about it.

You see, in Holland, a sandwich has butter or a lower-fat butter substitute (mayonnaise is for fries), and one topping. And if the topping comes in slices, you put on only one layer.

When T and I went to visit my parents the first time, at some point we sat down for lunch. Same scenario as with my friend. T put some sliced meat on his sandwich–one slice, because this was after the scary freakout incident.

So far so good. But then he grabbed the chocolate sprinkles, hesitated, and asked me if he should put them on the sliced meat. I was seriously beginning to wonder about him at that point.

Then I came to America, and for my first lunch in the country my mother-in-law put out all sorts of stuff for on our sandwiches: cheese, turkey, tomatoes, cucumber slices, lettuce, etc. All savory. And they all went together. The idea was to stack as much of it all on one sandwich. I tried to put only one thing on my sandwich at first, but that seemed to really worry my future mother-in-law. I acquiesced and stacked.

So now I know that T and my friend were actually being polite when they were making combinations, and that T was quite bravely keeping an extremely open mind when he was willing to put chocolate sprinkles on his sliced meat. He was trying to make a good impression.

Here are a few tips for you Dutchies out there tackling with American eating habits. Invite your American friend for dinner instead of lunch. If you must have them over for lunch and you have both savory and sweet toppings out, give some instructions beforehand about what goes together. And be prepared to go grocery shopping afterward to replenish your cupboards and fridge.

And here’s a tip for you Americans out there planning on visiting Holland. At the table, butter your bread really slowly, so you can see what everyone else does with the toppings first. And whatever you do, don’t use up all the sliced meat. It’s expensive! (More on Dutch stinginess in a future post.)

3 responses to “Boterham ≠ Sandwich

  1. Kun je de reaktie van vrienden voorstellen als ik uitleg dat wij voor het ontbijt heel weinig aan cereal doen en ei, pancakes en/of waffles voor het weekend bewaren, maar sandwiches hebben?? In ruim 20 jaar hier had ik nooit stil gestaan bij het verschil en was dit nooit echt opgekomen en pas toen ik hun gezichten zag, bedacht ik me dat er inderdaad een groot verschil is 🙂


  2. Tja, daarin verschillen we toch. M’n man is Colombiaan en daar eet men een grote warme maaltijd ‘s middags en een kleine ‘s avonds. Hij vindt het niet erg af en toe een broodmaaltijd te hebben voor lunch of dinner, maar het moet geen gewoonte worden. Als de meisjes en ik alleen thuis zijn eten we vaak een sandwich voor lunch, anders eten we meestal twee maal warm. En al ben ik alleen thuis, als er net genoeg voor één portie over is van het avondeten, dan eet ik dat voor lunch ipv brood.


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