Edible Nation Branding for the Netherlands

On a recent excursion to the Netherlands, I was left bubbling with gastrodiplomacy ideas for the Dutch.
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On a recent excursion to the Netherlands, I was left bubbling with gastrodiplomacy ideas for the Dutch.

Gastrodiplomacy is an increasingly popular form of public diplomacy that uses food as a means to communicate culture; this tactic of culinary cultural diplomacy shares the uniqueness of a country's cuisine as a manner of edible nation branding.

As I was noshing outside a snackautomat, a Dutch version of the since-forgotten automat that Horn & Hardart's made popular decades ago in America, I dreamed of Dutch gastrodiplomacy to America via the snackautomat.

Once a staple of fast American food, the snackautomat features glass windows in which individual hot foods can be purchased for some loose change.

While falling out of favor in American cities, the snackautomat remains popular in Dutch life. While the snackautomat might not make a comeback in American snacking life, at least the delectables found in these culinary kiosks might make for good Dutch gastrodiplomacy.

Behind the little windows lie delicious fried croquettes, kroket- filled with potato or veal soufflé, then deep-fried crispy. A little crunch on the outside, with a delicious gooey savory inside.

Or other fun favorites bought for a euro like the bamisate. Hard to imagine, but picture a round fried spaghetti pie. Yes, think a deep-fried spaghetti ball, with a flavor somewhere between Asian and Italian, with a fried crust.

I could see Holland conducting gastrodiplomacy to the whole of the Americas with their snack treats. In Brazil, with its salgado (salty snack) culture, these tasty treats would offer a fun and different flavor of snack. Or in Argentina, with empanada culture, the Dutch snackautomat fare could be quite popular as a new taste.

Although quite delicious, I am not sure the Dutch favorite herring -- raw pickled herring filets wrapped in raw onion, eaten by swallowing with a tail grip -- would go over so well, except maybe with an aim toward hardcore foodies.

But perhaps the pickled herring brodjie (sandwich) with pickled herring filet, raw onions, pickles, a lil' chili sauce and a sprinkling of salt and white pepper in a crusty roll could be a bit more palatable to gastrodiplomacy purposes.

Meanwhile, the Dutch could do a great service by promoting their version of frittes with peanut sauce, curry ketchup and Dutch mayo. The sauce accoutrements of Dutch frittes would make for a good gastrodiplomacy dish to make Americans think beyond their boring ketchup on fries for something much more flavorful.

Or Holland could dig a little deeper into its colonial history, and showcase all the flavors that once entailed Hollandia. There was a time when Amsterdam was the center of the world, with a mercantilist empire built on cloves as gold, cinnamon as silver. Dutch cuisine was both shaped and affected by the trade routes it controlled.

While in Utrecht, I had an immaculate lunch of Surinamese food, and I don't think my yellow curry-stained fingers can come up with enough effusive praise for the Surinamese fare. I had lunch at a place called Moksi & Tandoori. Moksi means mixture in Surinamese, and the cuisine reflects such sentiments.

Spicy curry lamb stew with green beans, yucca and cabbage stew, slathered with yellow curry sauce and eaten by hand with a hot roti. Surinamese food was a perfect mix of Indian, Indonesian, African and Caribbean.

Possibly the best food I have ever had -- not a compliment I toss around lightly. The chef Michael was so pleased with my praise that he gave me roasted aubergines and peppers covered in the sumptuous yellow curry sauce.

I doubt most Americans even realize that Suriname is even in the Americas, and that there is a remnant of Holland in the New World.

It would be fascinating Dutch gastrodiplomacy to see the Netherlands showcase more of its American and Caribbean heritage, and with Suriname, help showcase a food that reflects its once-mighty mercantile empire.

There has yet to be a gastrodiplomacy partnership between former colonial states and colonies, but it would be an interesting to see gastrodiplomacy collaboration between Holland and Suriname, in a project that would help the nation brands of both states, as well as offer an avenue for historical discussion and communication of shared history.

In a similar vein, perhaps Holland and Indonesia could highlight the food that was borne out of the long legacy from the days of the Dutch East Indies, found in foods like rijsttaffel.

Already Indonesia is conducting gastrodiplomacy to Holland as a means to increase trade and culture between the historically-linked pair.

The next step would be to conduct a joint-gastrodiplomacy campaign to examine the cultural connections borne out in food culture between the two countries.

Through gastrodiplomacy, smaller countries are able to communicate awareness for their cultural uniqueness, and thus contribute to public diplomacy efforts and the overall nation brand.

Dutch nation branding and could benefit from a bit of gastrodiplomacy to highlight all the various flavor that contribute to the Dutch palate. Moreover, Holland could take a bold and progressive step by conducting partnered gastrodiplomacy campaigns with countries of its former empire as a means to raise all parties' edible nation brand.

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