The “Kist”

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When I was a child, my best friend Debbie used to get a Christmas box from her grandparents who still lived in The Netherlands. In those days we called a box like that a “kist“.  That translates as “crate”.  When the kist arrived for Debbie’s family I wished my Opas and Omas still lived in Holland.  Oh the wonderful things that could arrive in a kist!

But that kist couldn’t contain all the goodies that arrive at The Pantry at this time of year. We have already started unpacking crates of treats. More is coming in each week! Here is a peek at the Christmas products available at The Pantry this season:

Christmas flyer 8.5 X 11

Christmas flyer 11 X 14 

Eating Healthy

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At The European Pantry we encourage people to eat intentionally.  That means:

  • knowing about what you are putting on your fork.  Those with food allergies make it a practice to look at ingredient lists but it is a good habit for everyone.
  • planning your meals.  Each week I purchase enough fruits and veggies for the week and make sure they end up in our meals and not in the compost. Having good ingredients in the house means home cooked meals can be quickly put on the table. As I raised my family I used the Canada Food Guide. Currently it is being overhauled to better reflect our lifestyles today. I am looking forward to seeing the new guide. There are other good resources that you can use to plan your meals. I came across a good blog: PositiveHealthWellness recently. Their article: What is Clean Eating provides some good guidelines for meal planning.

It Took a Little Boy….

How the Dutch ended up with chocolate sprinkles on their bread

Although the Americans have their chocolate “jimmies”, the French “dragees” and the Italians “confetti”, there is no other nationality besides the Dutch who generously sprinkle their sandwiches with “little mice”.  Before you begin to imagine cute miniature chocolate mice running over sandwiches, you should know that “muisjes” euphemistically means mouse droppings!

IMG_3417According to the blogger Rina Mae Acosta, one of the reasons UNICEF rated Dutch children as among the happiest children in the world is because they have “hagelslag” – chocolate sprinkles on bread for breakfast. How did one of the most pragmatic groups of people in the world get the idea of sprinkling bread with chocolate?

If you search the city archives of Amsterdam, you will discover that in 1919 a particularly severe hail storm season inspired B.E. Dieperink, the director of the Venco candy company , to make sugar coated anise seeds to sprinkle on bread. Dieperink’s creation was named hagelslag which literally means hailstorm. Grocers and confectioners img_6542around the country were soon weighing out the delicious treat into paper bags for Dutch children to take home and sprinkle on their sandwiches.

Not to be outdone, the DeRuijter confectionary company christened their own version of hagelslag  in 1928.  They offered the public four flavours: lemon, raspberry, orange and anise. Ten years later, Cees and Piet De Ruijter pulled off a marketing coup img_6540when they arrived at the Soestdijk Palace on the occasion  of Princess Beatrix’s birth to present the new Dutch royal parents, Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard with special orange geboorte muisjes.  The tradition of serving “birth sprinkles” on rusk to celebrate the birth of a new child dates from this special event.

But how did all these flavoured candy sprinkles evolve into chocolate sprinkles for our sandwiches? The answer illustrates the power of children as consumers.  A little five year old boy began to write letters to VENZ, a chocolate company  owned by “H. deVries en zonen” (H. deVries and sons)  asking for chocolate sprinkles. It is said he wrote quite a few img_6536letters. Enough letters to make Gerard de Vries, one of those sons, spend many evenings experimenting.  Finally in 1936, he puzzled out the mystery of how to make real chocolate hail with just the right look. Of course, there were no machines to produce such a product so after devising the right recipe “Meneer Ger” then had to find a way to make his product in large scale. By the 1960’s chocolate sprinkles had become  such a large part of the VENZ business that most of their other products were no longer worth bothering with.

While the original creator of hagelslag, Venco, remains known for their licorice products around the world, both DeRuijter and VENZ continue to produce not only chocolate sprinkles but also a growing assortment of similar products that children and many adults still sprinkling on their bread today.

So when you enjoy a slice of white bread generously topped with chocolate “hagelslag” think of a little boy who wouldn’t take no for an answer!

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Did you know?

  • Chocolate sprinkles are enjoyed all around the world nowimg_6538
  • Chocolate sprinkles must contain a minimum of 34% cocoa to be called “hagelslag”.  If they contain less they must be called cacaofantasie meaning pretend chocolate.
  • In Belgium chocolate sprinkles are literally called mouse droppings: muizenstroontjes
  • Most chocolate sprinkles now produced in The Netherlands are UTZ certified meaning they are made from sustainably sourced chocolate

In The Quest For Tea…

sheona     Guest blog by Sheona Della-Fort

If you are from England you will understand our love affair with tea. Though I have adapted somewhat to coffee drinking and Tim Hortons in Canada, I will always love a hot steaming cup of tea.

When I opened the kitchen cupboards the other day and found out that I had run out of my favourite drink, I was really glad that the European Pantry in Welland was open. Jacqui, the owner sells a bewildering array of teas.

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I have enjoyed a number of the teas she carefully selects from a variety of tea blenders from as nearby, as Wainfleet, Ontario and all over the world…definitely the best place to go in Niagara for the best teas. Click here for more information about their tea selection.

As I walked down to The European Pantry, my mind slipped into a reverie and memories of a country I had traveled to which is a major exporter of tea. tea 1Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was called by the British is an island off the coast of India, and its teas are world renowned. Interestingly, it was also a Dutch colony during the 17th century.

During my last visit to Sri Lanka in 2012 I was able to visit a tea plantation. The scenic drive to the tea estate based in Nuwara Eliya was breathtaking with numerous waterfalls, bakers falls near tea estatelush green hills and fields thickly covered with tea plants. The cooler climes of this region make it the ideal place to grow teas such as Orange Pekoe. Tea pluckers in colourful garb were busy picking tender tea leaves and placing them into baskets tied to their backs.

tea factory

After arriving at the centre, we were allocated a lady guide who showed us pictures of the history of the factory before we went into the main tea processing plant. Our guide continued her commentary by stating that Orange Pekoe undergoes extensive processing before it gets to the market. Tea leaves must first wither, after which processors roll, heat and ferment them. It is this fermentation process, which is also known as oxidation that distinguishes black teas from white and green teas.

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tea2Later that day, my interest was piqued as I found out about the conditions for tea workers on the island. I had read about human rights violations in the past and hoped to discover what improvements were being implemented. I met with my friend Charlotte who was originally from the UK and now resided in Sri Lanka helping street kids in various parts of tea workersTea image - some of the kids being helped by CHILd Action Lankathe country. She was part of a charity called Child Action Lanka or CAL for short. Because of my concern for women and children who live in poverty, I had volunteered with this charity in the past. Charlotte was able to tell me about the work that they were now doing reaching out to children who live in grinding living conditions. You can read about the charity’s work here.

 

Volunteering abroad has made me realize how fortunate I am to live in a western country where access to basic necessities and education is available to all. It stops me taking things for granted and to live with an attitude of gratitude. Helping in a small way through personal volunteering or making a financial contribution seems like a drop in the ocean compared to the need, but it is necessary to keep me grounded.

My walk was over so time for my reverie to end and decide which of the teas here at The European Pantry I will enjoy this time. I reached for a packet of herbal tea…

 

St Patrick’s Day

How are you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?

Here at the Pantry we served up samples of Kerrygold Irish Reserve Cheddar on Saturday to welcome in the good saint this week.  This 2 year old cheddar is made with milk from grass fed cows and you can taste the difference.  Is it a coincidence that this farmhouse cheddar pairs well with Guinness?   Besides our Kerrygold Reserve Cheddar we have over 15 cheddars you can choose from. If your cheese palate runs to something different than cheddar try pairing some of the following with your Guinness:

  • Jarlsberg
  • Smoked Gouda
  • Camembert
  • Sharp Provolone
  • St. Paulin…a Canadian version of Port Salut.
  • Goat Cheese like Cablanca Gouda or Woolrich Goat Mottzarella
  • Blue Cheese…we carry a variety including Cambozola, St. Agur, Danish Extra Creamy Blue. Or  try Blue Shropshire an amazing blue cheddar!

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St. Patrick’s Day always seems to herald spring here in Welland, Ontario. So even if you aren’t Irish it’s worth celebrating.  So plan something special this week…and if you are foregoing Guinness for lent or expect guests who pass on alcohol, we have an awesome alternative made by Carlsberg in Europe: Karmi Zurawina is a .5% alcohol dark ale beverage that offers a combination of deep, caramel flavor with the cranberry, dark cherry and chocolate aroma.