Good Morning, Bloomville. Second night back, the front door blew open in the wee hours. Descending the stairs at 5.30 to frigid currents in the Antipodes, thermostats blinking in apoplexy at 38 degrees and falling. -7 outside. The furnace roaring like Lear on the heath, to no discernible effect. Dr Bronners in the shower turned to lard, Argan Oil of Morocco to crystals. Ollie swaddled in a parka and bobble hat on the couch, woolly mittens on every paw, swigging Jameson from the bottle as a restorative. Three weeks in Europe. We had forgotten this.
Three hours later the kitchen crested 50, crocodile tears had defrosted, fallen and precipitated into history. Time to go open the doors at Table and welcome in the New Year. Like tardy Sinterklaas, we come bearing gifts from the Flatlands. In very limited supplies – the days of one’s portmanteaux being ferried from the White Star Liner by legions of sweating coolies are long gone – they nonetheless bring a note of cloggy cheer to the frostbitten shelves of the Microshop.
1. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s time to burn something. What better way to set fire to shit than a lovely box of Säkerhets Tändstickor? Yeah, we know, you can get a lighter from the Mirabito in Hobart for a buck. But three weeks in Europe reminded us that the good life is a pyramid built from little blocks of beauty. Single-shot espresso in the right cup, grace, love, candour, great matchsticks. Not strictly Dutch. In fact Swedish. But blonde in spirit and in three handy sizes.
2. Footsteps in the Sand. Maybe some Shinto aphorism on man’s temporal contribution to the sacred essence, or merely trudging across the beach at Bloemendaal to glimpse the North Sea’s gunmetal indifference? We don’t sell it, but sand is available from Delaware Bulldozing and wellington boots from stockists online.
3. Bergman’s Botersprits may sound like a type of enema, but are actually highly-addictive traditional dutch shortbread biscuits, teeming with butter and cunningly laced with salt. Piped and baked since 1922 at Banketbakkerij Theo Blom, on the very street in Utrecht where Inez’s Mom was born (significantly later). We tested them on American children. Turn away, turn back, and all you’ll see is biscuit-dust suspended in a shaft of sunlight.
4. 1846, Amsterdam, tail end of koloniale Rijk. There are Dutchmen from Malacca to Pomeroon itching to get their Flemish fingers on some full-cream, homestyle butter before the natives arrive and send ’em back to Hoogeveen with their tails between their legs. But shipping the stuff out to the tropics on ice proves only slightly effective. Weeks at sea take their toll; there’s seamen slithering in the fo’c’sle and something awful smelly in the Deep Antilles. Up pops H. J. Wijsman en Zonen with a dastardly solution – ingeblikte boter. Butter in a can. Yes, you heard it right. No refrigeration, lots of salt (are you sensing a theme?) a rich, cheese-like taste, it ranks #2 in Saveur’s list of weirdly wonderful butters of the world. And now go swoon over the packaging.
5. Little Porcelain
coke spoons. Not exactly measuring spoons. Just adorable, delicate yet practical porcelain spoons. Practical in what way? Well, in a ‘picking bits of stuff up and moving it somewhere else on a spoon’ kind of way. Beautifully.
6. Inez, what the hell is this?
7. More Nordzee. We spent four hours on the beach at Zandvoort putting this in salvaged beer bottles to bring home and store your contact lenses in. All 36 bottles were removed from Inez’s hand-luggage at Schiphol and confiscated, along with a quart of Santa Maria Novella Melograno and half a kilo of plastic explosive. Plans to demolish the back steps and replace them with a fireman’s pole have been put on hold.
8. Sturdy Dutch Kitchen Towels have been a stalwart at Table on Ten from the outset. We were getting low. Now we’re all full up. The ultimate utility towel, utterly multi-purpose, 100% cotton and almost indestructible. Wilna occasionally used these towels to wipe Inez’s bottom when she was a baby. Well, not these exactly. Ones like them. The actual ones have been donated to the Dutch equivalent of the Smithsonian. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
9. Simple Wooden Stoppers can plug anything roughly the diameter of a bottle-neck. Let your imagination run wild. These feel dutch because they are cheerful, beautiful, unpretentious and unable to say the ‘th’ sound properly. But actually they are Italian. Probably Northern Italian though, otherwise they’d be in hysterics and stabbing each other.
10. Here’s another look at the Säkerhets Tändstickor matches. See that barn swallow? So Delaware County.
11. They have outlasted all other cookies at Table on Ten. It’s true, new cookies have sashayed out of the kitchen over the years, all gussied up with sour cherries or Golden Syrup, and been Queen for a Day. But all the while Speculaas bided her time, humbly sweeping the grate like Assepoester – the dutch Cinderella (yes, that’s really her name) – whilst the others flutter their eyelids, primp and preen. To her, the glass slipper.
12. Gracing every table from Muggenbeet to Doodstil, the simple, practical Dutch Butter Crock is the perfect receptacle for a few ounces of H.J. Wijsman Butter in a Can. Folklore has it, the distinctive hemispherical shape was modeled on the domes of Basilica San Marco in Venice, much admired by Dutch traders visiting La Serenissima in the late 17th Century. But this folklore might not be accurate, because we just made it up.
That’s it! Doors are open! The winter is behind us, spring is in the air, daffodils are sprouting, there are coconuts on the palms and camels on Bramley Mountain. Pizza Night as usual this Friday and Saturday. Come on down. We’ve missed you!