About space and cake – Three cultural highlights of the Netherlands

There was probably one thing that entered your mind when reading the title of this article. But, there is more to the relationship between the Dutch and air than simply spacing out. A small selection of three cultural highlights of the Low Countries.

Space

With around 400 inhabitants per square kilometer, the Netherlands are one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The country has a tradition of reclaiming land from the sea since the Middle Ages, with some large-scale undertakings as recent as the 1950s and 1960s, when an entire province was created by dumping sand into part of the lake IJsselmeer. About one fifth of the country’s current surface was brought about by land reclamation.

Cake

Gebakjes form an essential part of the Dutch ‘circle party’, a generic celebratory event. It usually involves both friends and family of all ages and everyone simply sits, chats and eats cake. Gebakjes are individual pieces of different types of pie and cake, and Dutch bakeries are proud to all offer the same selection: various types of slagroomgebak (light sponge cake with cream layers), moorkoppen (huge chocolate-coated profiteroles) and tompoezen/tompouces (custard rectangles held together by pastry).

Although for parties it is quite common to buy gebakjes, of course the Dutch like home baking too. Appeltaart (apple pie) is a favourite classic, and so is kwarktaart (similar to but lighter than cheesecake).

Space cake

As its alternative name hash ‘brownies’ suggest, space cake is very different from the gebakjes described above. Whereas this latter type of Dutch baking is characteristically spongy, space cake often more resembles dense pound cake. It is sometimes brightly coloured, sometimes just eerily greenish due to the weed (or cannabis/hash/marijuana, all these terms are used).

Much unclarity exists about what is and what isn’t allowed in Holland concerning the possession and consumption of weed. In essence: the Dutch government maintains a tolerance policy, which means that even though by law cannabis is an illegal substance, people do not get prosecuted when their usage falls within certain limits.

Two random pieces of information may shed more light on the situation. The first is that from 2014 a law will be enforced that the minimum distance between a school and a coffee shop needs to be at least 350 meters (source: Trimbos). The implication being that currently this is not the case. In addition, rumour had it that coffee shops were sued for selling cake that had gone stale (i.e. due to the eggs going foul) rather than for the fact that the cake they sold contained cannabis. Whether that’s actually true remains a question though!

[Nederlands]

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