Leave it to the chef of the French King Louis XIV to create a recipe that in modern times has become a Dutch national favourite: the kroket. This word is derived from the French word croquette, and the recipe is made with local variety in many of the European countries. Unpretentious and ubiquitous, this cylinder shaped, bread-crumbed “sausage” filled with beef ragout is the only dish from my native country that I miss and am eager to fly to Europe for. I admit, Holland is not known for its gourmet food and I am afraid the kroket is the poster boy for this humiliating fact. An insult to the health-loving, vegetarian promoting and slow eating citizen, the deep fried kroket compensates for its evils with its delicious medley of sensory effects: the smell of fresh beef, the crackling sound when biting in its crispy layer, the smooth feel of the ragout and finally the taste of a perfectly spiced meat sauce. As a child I used to bite one end off, scoop out the ragout and eat it with a spoon. This left me with a heavenly tube of greasy crunch. As I grew up, birthday parties without the kroket were a disappointment and days out on the town were not complete without consuming this fast food.
From this introduction, the reader should have become aware that there is no way to describe this dish as anything close to refined. Surely, what can be expected of a food item that one can take out of a “snack bar” wall. Waiting patiently next to its cousin, the patat (fries) and mayonnaise, it would have been a perfect subject for a Warhol painting, if only he had lived in Holland. Put two euros in the slot, pull the handle (I remember some anxiety around this: what if it is stuck, or my fingers slip?), and voila! It lends itself well to the quick lunch or late evening snack, gobbling it down while standing or walking. One can also order the kroket in any respectable restaurant, but in that case it is presented as a children’s dish. Of course, when I return as a Canadian, I would ignore that rule and play the card of ignorance. I wonder, if King Louis’ chef had foreseen all this uncultured behaviour, would he have focused his creativity on something else?
I have decided that in my next life I will come back as a fast food cook and open a chain of restaurants in Canada, promoting the kroket. I will bet my second life on it that these “snack bars” will make me rich. It will replace the overrated hot dog in no time flat. Sadly, the kroket is not sold in Canada, but this does not stop me from fantasizing about it: It is a warm and sunny day in a small Dutch town. Merchants at the market make lively conversations with their customers. A street organ is playing a lively tune. My fifteen year old daughter and I are sitting on a terrace, absorbing the sights, sounds and smells. In front of us are two krokets with mustard. I wonder, will she like the taste? Either way is victory: if she likes it, it will be a confirmation of her Dutch heritage. If she doesn’t, I can eat hers!