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    Mark Diacono of Otter Farm
    He does sterling work growing many inappropriate plants in Devon. He dedicates a great deal of time and effort nurturing a plethora of plants that are (mostly) totally unsuited to our climate. His is a life of such extreme eccentric dedication that to start a Blog about Biscuits seems perfectly normal. He treads gently in the footsteps of people like the great William Buckland,a professor of Geology who claimed that he could tell location by tasting the local topsoil.

Sportive Koekjes

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.

Yolanda Heuzen

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8 Responses

  1. I feel like I’m there now…

    The pea soup is called snert?

    The zopie sounds horrible. Perhaps because there is more egg in there, than I could cope with in a drink.

    Most importantly, how do I pronounce ‘Koekjes’? It will be essential for my next visit to Holland. I am reading it koke-yez, I assume I’m completely wrong?

  2. Hi Yolanda, this was so fascinating, it had to be shared with my husband.. Zopie must be an accquired taste, it does sound dreadful and would be illegal in the US with those raw? eggs, double trouble with those! You are just a font of information, my dear, many thanks for the education. 🙂

  3. I demand samples for Malvern!

  4. * Rob, yes the pea soup is called snert which is short for erwtensoep.

    Koekjes are pronounced: cook ( no surprise there as it originally was a Dutch word enyway) plus yes so cook-yes.

    * Frances I quite agree anout the dreadfulness of Zopie although for me the horror of horrors is the beer part. 😉

    * Michelle: are you quite sure about that because warmed up beer and raw eggs are so ewwwww-inducing.

    • It was purely out of curiosity to see whether it really is as awful as it sounds. I’m happy to stick with your judgement though and just concentrate on the Koekjes!

      I remember ertwensoep with fondness – we ate a lot of it on honeymoon in Amsterdam. It was a very cold March and we needed it to keep warm! We also had lots of pancakes – just thought I’d throw that in because it’s pancake day and that’s what we’re having for lunch – with lemon and golden syrup. Yum.

  5. Since the only skating around here is the Olympics on TV, the authentic version of Zopie seems like overkill, Yolanda – and yes, it’s the beer that makes it sound so awful! We can get the pasteurized-in-shell eggs here so that part isn’t even a problem.

    Is there any drink with rum and chocolate? That could go well with a few koekjes and the pairs skating finals tonight. Cook-yes. Cook-yes. Cook-yes. Sounds cool!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  6. Well Annie, I don’t think that the Dutch speed ice skater Sven Kramer had partaken of the Zopie. Much. As he won gold on the 5000 meter in Vancouver.

    Cook-yes sound both cool and yummy!

  7. Ha! And now we know the rest of the story! I’ve always said my biggest weakness is cookies. Love them, love them, love them.

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