The Dutch take Koekjes (cookies) and the eating thereof very seriously, it’s not for nothing that we’ve single-handedly converted the whole of the USA and Canada to Cookiedom. Not bad for such a miniscule country like the Netherlands.
We’ve not only introduced most of the world to Koekjes but the Dutch also have a different kind of Koek for practically every occasion. Like when it’s cold and freezing and the ice is thick enough to skate on. Then the traditional Koek and Zopie stalls appear on the ice itself, to cater to a huge herd of hungry, cold and thirsty skaters.
Skating is our nation’s favourite sportive pastime in winter and has been for centuries. It’s rather a frightfully serious and tiring business, sportive wise, and one gets awfully peckish so it’s very nice to tuck into some Koekjes to take the edge off the peckishness. This explains the Koek part of the Koek and Zopie stalls.
Outdoor skating does weird things to one’s body, on the one hand one breaks out in a sweat from all that strenuous exercise while on the other the extremities are practically frozen so from time to time one needs to defrost. That’s where the Zopie part of the Koek and Zopie kicks in.
Zopie comes from Soopje, which means drinkypoo, and harks back to the 1700s when skaters were imbibing, rather heavily I’m sorry to say, all the Zopie they could lay their frozen little hands on. Zopie is a hot mixture of dark beer, rum, eggs, raisins, cinnamon and eggs, a kind of antifreeze avant la lettre.
That Koek and Zopie stalls were on the ice had to do with the law. One needed a licence to sell alcohol but the law only applied to the selling of the hard stuff on land and water, not on ice. So being the entrepreneurial nation that we are and always have been, some enterprising soul hit upon the concept of selling alcohol on the ice. And it all skated down hill from there.
Obviously one gets awfully cold when indulging in a spot of outdoor skating, and in the 1700s there was only the outdoor skating to be had, so one naturally turned to Zopie to get warm. One had one Zopie, just to thaw out you understand, then another because it tasted so fantastically good, and another one and then some Koekjes so that one was able to stay upright a bit longer to partake of another Zopie, or two or three.
Needless to say that quite a few skaters got pretty legless, which doesn’t do a thing for one’s skating skills, and a lot of accidents happened on the ice throughout the centuries. Did that stop the Dutch from skating or Koek and Zopie-ing? Not at all, we are still at it today; the Zopie being the main part of the so very sportive ice skating experience and the Koekje just a sop, a kind of excuse Koekje which enables one to imbibe more Zopie than one would otherwise be able to do.
Nowadays there are often stalls to be found near or on the ice that cater for the ravenous crowd, where one can buy hot soup (mostly pea soup aka snert) , hot sausages, hot cocoa, Koek (what else did you expect) and other stuff that s either hot or filling or both. But those stalls are only visited by rank amateurs who know very little if anything of the real Dutch skating experience.