Wetenschap - 22 november 2001

A lazy Londoner looks at luxuries in the Lowlands

A lazy Londoner looks at luxuries in the Lowlands

I am a consumer. Being environmentally conscious I'm pained to make such a statement but my desire to accumulate seems to have beaten those ideals to the back of my mind. I take full advantage of the great array of choice that's constantly within my reach and the arrival of the festive season certainly doesn't bode well for my bank balance.

Eating, the fundamental necessity of life is not always straightforward for me. The fast food snack bars for example, are numerous in every Centrum, but for a vegetarian the selection is rather limited. My only option, apart from the tried and tested frites is laughingly referred to a kaas souffl? - the epitome of industrially-made pockets of grease! There seems to be a conflict between the Dutch love of deep fat frying and the health conscious lifestyle of the young. Environmental concerns seem to be pleasingly prominent in modern thinking, resulting in considerable demand for organic produce. Wageningen restaurants are diverse and there's amazing choice for such a small country town. That is of course assuming you can understand the menu. It must annoy the person serving when I insist on ordering in my London murmur, although the situation can't arise enough to warrant printing a translation.

I'm not sure how it happened but at some point in history Lowlanders started to drink from froth-filled egg cups. Drinking is deceptively fast and sets a different pace from the discipline required from the pint. A British round of drinks will be paid for by a single person relying on the generosity of their compatriots for future intoxication. To 'go Dutch' is an English phrase used for cost sharing and I see this happening more frequently over here. The substantial price of alcohol is equivalent to London, surprising, as most shop-bought items here are half the price they would be in the UK. The reason could be the technological advancement I see in the many cafes around. There's the kind of quality in Wageningen that I would only expect from somewhere trendy in England.

Living in the countryside does have its drawbacks but provision of farm fresh products is not one of them. This must be the greatest Dutch delicacy and I'm glad I didn't inherit the lactose intolerance from my Chinese ancestry. It is widely accepted that the reason Holland is on average one of the world's tallest nations is the provision of so many calcium rich bovine goods to children. A fact many lanky natives have proudly quoted in my presence. A delicious myriad of lekker loveliness is on offer in the average bakery that would put a sparkle into the coldest eyes. This is one area where Netherlanders have mastered the perfect balance between modern and traditional craft. | David Hopkins