The Year of the Kitchen

Usually this is my forum to share about foods and products I am excited about.  I confess though that I have been rather quiet this past year. This is why…

You may have heard that last year was the Chinese year of the rooster but for me and my family, 2017 was the year of the kitchen.  We have lived in our century home for over 25 years. In spite of raising a relatively large brood of children… five, in case you were wondering….our 8 by 10 foot kitchen was adequate during most of those years. For larger baking or canning projects I always appropriated the dining room table.

But children grow up. They bring home friends, spouses and then grandchildren. Suddenly, that adequate kitchen feels too snug for two generations of cooks sharing the space during family gatherings. Kitchen cabinets take a beating over 25 years of use. It was finally time to get to work and realize some dreams.

We are a family of avid do-it-yourself-ers. My neighbours are never surprised to see me up on a roof or creating something with my table saw on the front driveway. Yes, you read correctly. My table saw. My husband, John, prefers his circular saw.  So there never was any doubt that this would be a do-it-yourself kitchen…or that the “yourself” would be me with the exception of plumbing and electrical. I gladly deferred those elements of the reconstruction to more able persons.

To be honest, the year of the kitchen actually started August of 2016 but before I get ahead of myself let me give you a tour of the “before.”

 

 

The kitchen was a solid fortress of double brick walls that once formed what was most likely a workshop addition on the back of a tradesman’s two story house.   The early inhabitants of our street were the families of men who worked at the nearby steel plant that was torn down a decade ago. Back in the 1990’s we added a family room and the exterior brick walls were absorbed into the house. The windows came out but the old sill remained as a shelf in the pass through. The entrance way became a hall; the coat closet, a pantry. The plan was to remove the bricks under that window sill to floor level so we could push the cabinets out and enlarge the  kitchen’s square footage. I also planned to remove multiple layers of wall coverings to expose the brick of the original back of the house.

IMG_6948Before I was ready to install new cabinets, over 400 bricks were removed.  There are always surprises when you take apart an old house. The original builder, a bricklayer by the name of Roach, constructed the house in 1916 using reclaimed bricks half of which were handmade. On walls that were to be covered, Roach used less than perfect bricks and his mortar was left rough.  His fine craftsmanship was evident on the walls that once formed the back of the house, however, the mortar had become crumbly over time.  So I learned how to repoint mortar and rebuild a brick wall.  Plaster board covered a tongue and groove wood ceiling. Two old stove pipe holes were revealed.

 

One of those holes went through a joist which had to be reinforced once all the wood boards came off the ceiling.  As I removed layers of history, I got a glimpse of the people who had inhabited the house over the years.

This process took months because frequently I only had a few hours each week to invest into the project. During the busy Christmas season here at The European Pantry all work went on hold.  Finally a year after I started demolition, it was time for the new kitchen to take shape.

 

The kitchen isn’t complete yet. There is a dishwasher to come and it still needs some finishing touches, however, you can check our update in a more recent post: Bring Home the Colour Now that it is mostly done I can shift my focus to cooking for enjoyment again…and sharing tips and new ideas with you!European Pantry cooking

However, this project has taught me a lot of what makes a good kitchen…ideas I  will be happy to pass on to anyone who is starting their own “year of the kitchen.”

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.

Loose leaf Speaking…

One of the most exciting developments here at The European Pantry is our TEA BOX organic loose leaf teas.  We have been partnering with Organic Connections to build the best loose leaf tea collection in Niagara.  Our collection includes a choice of 20 black, green and herbal base teas. You can create your own personal blends with an additional 20 spices, herbs and fruits.  Jacqui will specially measure and mix to your specifications and keep your unique recipe on file to refill the same or adjust in the future.

Or you can try Jacqui’s special house blends:

  • Summer Bouquet Green
  • Gingersnap Cookie Honeybush
  • Rootbeer Rooibos
  • Orange Creamsicle Grey
  • Smores Black
  • Ms. Grey

If looseleaf isn’t your cup of tea,  we will have your tea in a bag: choose from 50 types.

Come on in! We have something for everyone!IMG_3745

 

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!

Some more to the story….

Joren sent us a message that has injected a bit of mystery into the story of hagelslag.  According to Joren his ancestor, Gerrit van Voornveld, the original founder of Venco invented hagelslag much earlier than the above account.  Below in Joren’s comment you can find a link to a 1910 advertisement for hagelslag. He also says that the word “hagelslag” appeared in Dikke van Dale, a Dutch dictionary, in 1914.  I am wondering if these are not so much conflicting accounts as two versions of the same origin: the romantic “official” advertising story and the longer complete story of a product that didn’t become popular immediately.

Is there anyone who has a copy of this dictionary to check if the 1914 definition refers to a bread topping or to a hailstorm?  Perhaps it would be possible to confirm the year that Holland was plagued by hail? Can anyone confirm the date for when chocolate hail came on the market?

The story continues……

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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

A Great Pair

IMG_6048As I walked through the Welland Farmer’s Market this morning I stopped to chat with Sarah from Angels Gate Winery in Beamsville. She was sampling their 2013 Gamay Noir so I took a bit next door to our store to introduce it to the cheeses we are sampling today.IMG_6047 The Gamay Noir greeted our Chevre Noir like a long lost family member!  So I popped back to the market to introduce them more officially. Sarah described the Gamay Noir as bursting with red plum, raspberry and blackberry up front, IMG_6051complimented by subtle undertones of toast, cedar and cherry.  Although some people grab for a safe Reisling during the summer months the fresh fruit notes of the Gamay makes it an excellent hot weather choice…especially paired with an aged goat cheddar like the Chevre Noir.

Come on out to the Welland Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings.IMG_6050 Enjoy a taste of wine at Angels Gate’s wine table, meander through the displays of fruit and veggie vendors, and listen to a bit of music.

Then walk next door to The European Pantry to sample our cheeses and meats.

A trip to the Welland Farrner’s Market isn’t complete without a visit to The European Pantry!