For years in Scheveningen Rocco Gasperoni of the ‘Ndrangheta’ or Calabrian mafia was happily making the best pizzas the neighbourhood had even eaten until his arrest about a week ago.
And his story reads like a movie. His criminal activities date back to 1997 where he was arrested in Spain, then sentenced to 14 years of hard time for smuggling drugs between Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. He was eventually placed in house arrest and managed to flee to the Netherlands.
The Italian government tried to have Gasperoni extradited, but apparently messed up the paperwork and he was free again. Then he opened up a few shops, but the pizza shop is the one that made him popular, although neighbours claimed that shady characters would visit the joint and sit in dark corners. And then the Italians tried to extradite Gasperoni again, but since he had been in the Netherlands for so long, it didn’t stick and more pizzas were made.
As of a week ago Gasperoni will be doing 12 years of a 14-year sentence in a Dutch prison. Dutch authorities blame the differences between Italian and Dutch laws for why it took so much time to put him away.
(Links: www.ad.nl, 20min.ch, Photo of Pizza pie by Adam Kuban, some rights reserved)
Tags: crime, Italy, mafia, pizza, Scheveningen
The Dutch are already involved in getting to Mars, but researchers at Wageningen University feel people need to be able to grow their own food if they ever plan on living there.
Wageningen University wants to grow vegetables in soils similar to those found on the Moon and Mars, but getting those soils is a tall order. However, NASA actually makes ground similar to that on the Moon from sand found in an Arizona desert, while Mars’ crimson ‘soil’ is scooped from a volcano in Hawaii. The first experiments started in 2013 after the university received an order of 100 kilos of NASA’s imitation ‘space soil’, which cost 2,000 euro.
Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen University decided to grow tomatoes, peas, cress and other plants in pots containing the simulated soil. The imitation ground wasn’t big on being watered at first, but soon turned out to be good potting soil. “In the Martian soil, plants were growing fast and well. They even started to flower, something that we never anticipated,” Wamelink said. The 50-day experiment was written up in the science journal PLOS One in August 2014.
The vegetables however are not necessarily safe to eat. Wamelink suggested growing other plant species such as violets to absorb the poisons. Water should be no problem as it is found as ice on both the Moon and Mars, said Wamelink. Other questions which need answers include the presence of friendly bacteria to help plant growth and what happens to plants that grow in low gravity. It’s still all very theoretical and cannot be tested in actual Martian and lunar conditions.
Part of me wonder if earthlings so fond of all kinds of foods, wouldn’t go bonkers from a steady diet of boring, never mind a lack of meat for some, alcohol and chocolate. The first person to open up a snack bar is going to rule the planet.
Tags: Mars, moon, space, Wageningen University
Last weekend in Paris, a French woman asked me at the dinner table what food was like in the Netherlands. Examining the party of eight around me with a Dutch cook on my right (from Limburg, where they actually enjoy food), I diplomatically answered that the Netherlands have great basic ingredients, but seem to struggle to put them together nicely.
In an environment where snack food goes disco and having a romantic dinner at a junk food chain went viral, here’s a questionable junk food mashup: a pancake with ‘friet speciaal’ (fries topped with chopped onions, mayonnaise and curry ketchup), which can be had at a mini-golf course in Rotterdam.
“It’s not a joke and it’s very tasty,” claims cook Brian de Jong. They call it the ‘pannenkoek Xtra speciaal’, which goes for €7,50 and was in fact inspired by the disco snack food mentioned above. In case you got hit hard by a wayward golfball during your stay, you can also order the pancake Turkish pizza (aka ‘lahmacun’) or the pancake satay.
Tags: golf, junk food, pancakes, Rotterdam
Having a glass of wine at the hair salon and at some clothing shops in Amsterdam started as an experiment in January 2016. Rotterdam started in February and called it ‘Project Blending 010’ (why in English, don’t know – 010 is the area code for Rotterdam) and other places in the country called it ‘blurring’ (why in English, still don’t know) because the law says serving alcohol without a liquor license is illegal. So yes, the whole thing was illegal but tolerated – sound familiar?
The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) kicked off the experiment, but the Union of Liquor Store Owners (Slijtersunie) recently decided they were done being tolerant and decided to officially report the VNG to the authorities for breaking the law. The VNG is ‘surprised’ because talking it out is usually the Dutch way, but you can imagine there’s a lot more selling of alcohol at salons and shops than there is selling non-alcohol related products at the wine store. The experiment let shops serve and sell alcohol, while establishments that usually sell alcohol could sell shop products.
A lot of us were already having a drink with the lovely people who patiently cut our hair before any of this became a thing. And yes, it would probably help to make any kind of shopping more enjoyable. Maybe it’s time to change the law instead of forcing one group of Dutch businesses to have their turf invaded by another.
Or they could have a drink and talk it out till the cows come home Dutch style, who knows.
(Links: www.binnenlandsbestuur.nl, www.z24.nl, www.telegraaf.nl, Photo of Hair salon by Travel Salem, some rights reserved)
Tags: alcohol, Amsterdam, hair salon, law, wine
Dutch frozen fish company Iglo’s search for the new Captain Iglo (Kapitein Iglo) continues with 30 candidates wanting the job, including 10 women and even a 9 year old girl. The rest were men, young and old, with and without beards. The candidates were subjected to a jury of children during a boat trip around Amsterdam.
Tiemen, the oldest man who applied, was 72 and resembled the already existing bearded captain, but one of the favourites with the jury was 30 year old Samira, a Dutch-Moroccan woman. Part of the selection process included handing out fish sticks to kids, and Samira went one further and brought her own homemade dipping sauce.
Knowing that the Netherlands has never had their own Captain Iglo, going with Tiemen would mean nothing new for the brand and although a safe bet, would reinforce the idea that women and men without beards were wasting their time applying. However, choosing a woman could really spice up the brand’s image and give the marketing people lots of new angles. Let’s see how that plays out.
(Link: www.deondernemer.nl, Photo of Volendam by quantz, some rights reserved)
Tags: fish, job, sea, women
According to BN De Stem, food giant Unilever is pulling the plug on the longest running ice lolly in the Netherlands, the Raket (‘Rocket’).
BN De Stem suggests the Rocket is too Dutch for its own good. Unilever was only producing them for the Dutch market. The company, operating under the Ola brand in the Netherlands and Wall’s and Algida elsewhere, wants to streamline its production of ice cream flavours by reducing them from 450 to 90. As one observer said: “How much more streamlined than a rocket can you get?”
RTL Z claims that the story is an April Fools’ joke, citing “sources within Unilever”. Unlike any other April Fools’ joke I’ve seen, this one doesn’t refer to April however. The original source talks about May instead. Elle smells a rat, because why would a brand ditch a product that sells so well? So I decided to find out for myself, picked up the phone and called Unilever: turns out, their press department is conveniently unavailable for comment during the four-day Easter weekend.
Everybody agrees that if this really is an April Fool’s joke, it’s one of the lamest ever.
If Unilever is really abandoning the Rocket, then you’re in luck. Cheap knock-offs are still being made by competing brands as Z24 helpfully pointed out two years ago .
The news that Unilever is going to discontinue its traditional Dutch treat follows recent news that two major ‘bitterball’ manufacturers, Mora and Van Geloven, are now in foreign hands, and news from 2014 that aniseed cubes were discontinued by De Ruijter because the machine that made them could no longer be kept in repair.
Tags: April Fools, ice, ice lollies, Ola, Unilever
During the Dream and Dare festival on April 22 through 24 at the Eindhoven University of Technology to celebrate their 60th anniversary, they’ll be tech, innovation and debates as well as art, music and food. The food part will have drones acting as waiters, happily combining tech and drinks.
At the drone café, visitors will be able to order drinks from one drone while its drone colleague brings the drinks to you. It sounds way easier than it is to have drones flying indoors instead of outdoors. They need to fly much more accurately, they need to make way less noise and they need to not clip off any fingers when you grab your drinks from their talons. As well, the drones can only handle 300 grams of weight at a time.
Tessie Hartjes, of the student workgroup Blue Jay Eindhoven, says the combination of navigating and grasping is a big deal. She explains that although the drones use speech recognition software (and I’m assuming it only understands Dutch), the café is too noisy for that to work properly so you can order from the bar, old school. The drones also fly a certain route that you cannot walk into for fear of causing an accident. You can also pay to the drone, and tipping them might actually make them tip. I’m kidding.
(Link: www.tue.nl, www.bright.nl, Photo of Drone by Karen Axelrad, some rights reserved)
Tags: drones, Eindhoven University of Technology
It’s one thing to be allergic to foods like peanuts, shellfish, gluten or lactose, but it’s another to say you’re allergic to something and really mean you just don’t like it. There are people violently allergic to certain foods who have to watch everything they eat, especially at restaurants. It seems at the very least disrespectful for anyone to pretend they have an allergy just to get attention like a child having a tantrum.
A secret group of Dutch chefs on Facebook claims there is an increasing number of people in their establishments who don’t have allergies but enjoy getting attention by going to a restaurant and only once they’ve ordered do they ask if the food has peanuts, shellfish, gluten or lactose in it. Then, later on they order and eat something they said they were allergic to, as if it didn’t make a difference. These patrons are giving the disgruntled chefs major headaches and so chefs have started swapping stories.
One chef tells of a painstakingly put together lactose and gluten-free wedding buffet for 65 people only to see the guests go to town on bitterballen and beer later on. “I should have asked for a doctor’s note”, the chef jokes. Of course a wedding party should have the food they want, but why lie about having allergies? They could have simply told the chef what not to prepare instead of coming across as either liars or ignorant.
Lying about having a food allergy is a lot of work for chefs from buying ingredients to properly cleaning the surfaces where food is prepared. Another chef reassures his colleagues by saying that people with allergies check with the restaurant beforehand, and usually not when they show up and order. That’s how you can tell these two groups apart.
One chef who, upon being told that someone was allergic to gluten, politely asked if they had celiac disease (in Dutch he asked with a term that omits the word ‘disease’), which is not the only form of gluten intolerance, but a serious and rare one. The answer he got was “sounds great, I’ll have some”, indicating the person probably fell in the ignorant category. At least that chef didn’t have to scrub down his kitchen.
Tags: allergies, gluten-free, lactose intolerance, restaurants
The latest junk food hit in the Netherlands comes from Nijmegen, Gelderland and it’s called a ‘discodel’ (photo), a wrinkled hotdog called ‘frikandel’ with mayonnaise on top of it and topped off with small multi-coloured sugary balls that you would normally find on ice cream or cupcakes.
Three Dutch students came up with this one after a night of drinking – what a surprise. They’ve always mixed things up at the snack bar, and one day they went for the frikandel with mayonnaise and coloured balls and the ‘discodel’ was born.
Tags: discodel, fries, frikandel, junk food, Nijmegen
It’s time for another holiday controversy, one that revolves around chocolate Easter eggs sold at Dutch chain store HEMA. The store calls one type of its milk chocolate Easter eggs ‘eggs for hiding’ for the purpose of an egg hunt, but omitting the word ‘Easter’ has led to hate-filled comments from Dutch Twitter conspiracy theorists living in their own echo chamber. ‘The H in HEMA stands for Halal instead of Holland’ and other hateful nonsense is doing the rounds, effectively helping the rest of us weed out the nutters just in time for some online spring cleaning.
Part of Dutch Twitter went down the rabbit hole claiming, with no proof whatsoever, that HEMA was pandering to Muslims by removing the word ‘Easter’ in their ‘eggs for hiding’. HEMA claims it has been calling one type of its milk chocolate eggs ‘eggs for hiding’ for 10 years now because there’s a gold one and that makes them great for Easter egg hunts. After one ‘offending’ picture on Twitter, people jumped on the bandwagon because it sounded plausible if you ignore the pesky facts that get in the way of blind hate.
HEMA sells pork products, Christmas stuff, Easter stuff, Sinterklaas stuff, even head scarves that offends absolutely nobody.
(Links: nieuws.nl, www.volkskrant.nl)
Tags: chocolate, Easter, Hema, Twitter