Every morning beginning when I open my porch door to let in the breeze and even more so as I make my way down the stairs to the street, I am inundated by the smells of fresh bread and spices. Once on my bike, not only my nose but my eyes and ears become saturated with the colors and sounds of market stalls and restaurants preparing for the day. Every color under the sun is laid out in giant crates in front of one storefront after another.
I wish I could say that I wandered among the stalls in my free time, sampling the rainbow of local Dutch food Anthony Bourdain-style. I have wandered and sampled, but the problem is that the food is not "Dutch." Indigenous Dutch cuisine as far as I can tell is dominated by meat and potatoes, pea soup, raw herring, a beef-based meatball of sorts with flour called "bitterballen," and mayonnaise on just about anything (but most often alone with french fries). To each their own, but I can't say I see myself converting to snacking on herring or mayonnaise-laden fries anytime soon.
Maybe Anthony Bourdain would shake his head at my skepticism, but I would argue that the true magic of food in the Hague comes not from the Dutch, but from the footprints of the global nature of this city. There is a large Turkish immigrant community in The Hague and Rotterdam, and in my neighborhood the daily enticing smells come from the Middle East. As I get closer to the IDEA offices, I bike past the massive arch that heralds the entrance to Chinatown, where the flavors hail from Vietnam, China, and Japan. Dotted everywhere in between on seemingly every block are Indonesian and Surinamese restaurants and groceries, products of Dutch colonialism and the Dutch East India Company. And just in case we might feel left out in the United States, I've seen on the edges of town restaurants bearing the signs "American Pizza" and "Mister Ed Chicken Snacks."
Various IDEA staffers have been incredibly kind and taken me out to lunch over the past couple of weeks, either to go over a project or just simply to make me feel more welcome and included. This week, my supervisor took me to a Vietnamese restaurant to discuss a preliminary research project addressing the source(s) of law and legal boundaries that apply to intergovernmental agencies such as IDEA. Between the IDEA staff's local expertise and my own haphazard culinary adventures, I've gotten to experience some of the flavors that truly define the Hague. Or, maybe it's just an elaborate ruse to avoid herring.
The Hague, The Netherlands