Dutch people have a tremendous love affair for one particular small, slippery, slimy, fatty, smelly sea-creature- the hallowed Herring! To say that the Dutch like herring is a vast understatement. Simply put, Dutch people are down-right mad for their stinkin’ Haring.
For those of you living under a stone, the herring is a small oily silvery-colored fish found in the North Atlantic and North Pacific ocean. Dutch people began fishing and trading herring over 1,000 years ago and much of Holland’s wealth and prolific history of sea trade and colonization can in fact be attributed to these slippery species. Business kicked into full swing in the 14th century when a Dutchman by the name of Willem Beukelszoon (yes, one of those funny Dutch names!) invented a tasty and popular process for curing the fish in brine.
Now that the history lesson is over, we can get to the fun stuff: Dutch people do not eat their herring in a particularly civilized fashion. No, they love to make an amusing show and a big deal about the proper “Dutch way” to eat the little fishies. Trust me, it ain’t a pretty sight!
If slippery, smelly, raw fish is not your cup of tea, I’d suggest you perhaps avoid this very Dutch treat. For those of you who are brave enough to give it a try, it’s important to know that the very act of eating herring is an art form in itself!
Don’t you dare try to cut your herring into pretty pieces and eat it with a knife and fork? Dat mag niet! To be truly indoctrinated Dutch-style, you must grab the fish by its slippery little tail, cock your head back to a slightly uncomfortable angle and take one large fishy bite. There’s something about this delightful little performance that has even the most humble of Dutch persons brimming with pride in nationalistic delight.
Dutch people also make a big hoopla about the kick-off of the herring season (yes my friends, there is an official herring season)! Every year the sea-side city of Scheveningen celebrates the opening of the season with Vlaggetjesdag (Flag Day) and the first barrel is given to the King to sell at auction for charity. The 2014 season kicked off this past weekend and the first precious barrel was sold for a startling €56,500!
How much do Dutch people really love herring, you ask? Well my friends, the Dutch happily consume 12,000,000 kilos every year. Which translates to every Dutch person eating at least 5 of these slippery delights each year – so eat up – ‘tis the season!