Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Orange craze"

What I have discovered about the Dutch these past four years that I have been living in The Netherlands (I can't believe it'll be four years this month) is that they drink a lot of beer. And I mean, A LOT. Well, I didn't actually need four years to figure that out. A night out on the town the first time I visited the country pretty much made it obvious.

In Greece, you have a beer when you go out to a bar or a club and then you move on to the "real" stuff like vodka, tequila, whiskey or a good cocktail, not to mention the copious amounts of ouzo a Greek person can consume in one outing. But here, it is like there is no other drink on the planet other than beer. Ok, I know Holland is the king of beer producers but still, c'mon, it's only beer.

To any beer enthusiasts out there: "Please, don't shoot"

The Dutch may drink a lot of beer on any given day but on one particular day of the year they can drink every other nation under the table, and that's including the Czechs, Irish and Germans. That day is Koninginnedag; Queen's Day.

Koninginnedag is a national holiday which celebrates the birthday of the Queen of The Netherlands. Queen Beatrix's birthday is on January 31st but she decided to officially celebrate her birthday every year on April 30th, the date of her mother and previous Queen, Queen Juliana's birthday, as the weather is better in April and tends to favor outdoor festivities.

On Koninginnedag, the Queen—usually accompanied by her sons and their families—visits one or two towns of the country, which vary each year, greeting the people who receive her with fitting celebrations in her honor. These often involve traditional Dutch dances and demonstrations of old crafts.

Koninginnedag is also famous for the vrijmarkt (free market), where people all over the country are allowed to sell freely and without permit anything they want on the streets. Holland literally turns into an enormous garage sale. People lay blankets and sheets in front of their houses, on sidewalks, streets and parks, selling anything from chairs to computers and from books to refrigerators. You are supposed to bargain for the goods and as the day passes, you are bound to get a good deal on just about anything that is left unsold.

The largest vrijmarkt in Holland is in Amsterdam, where thousands of people try to secure a place on the streets of the city to sell their second-hand goods to the almost two-million people who celebrate the Queen's Day in Holland's capital. Vondelpark, which is the largest park in Amsterdam and a gorgeous one at that, is full of children who gather there to sell their cast-off toys and earn a pretty decent allowance.

On Queen's Day, most people wear orange clothing and nearly everyone has an orange accessory on, like a hat, scarf, crazy orange wig, or a stick-on tattoo of the Dutch flag on their cheeks. The streets are filled with orange balloons, orange banners, orange-colored foods and drinks. It's an orange-palooza. And all that because it is the day of oranjegekte, the day of "orange craze". Orange is the national color of Holland, as it represents the Huis van Oranje-Nassau (House of Orange-Nassau), which is the name of the current Dutch dynasty.

Koninginnedag has come to mean more to the Dutch people that just the celebration of the Queen's birthday. It is a day of unity and solidarity, and a day of fun and enjoyment of spring and everything that it has to offer. Which brings me to the drinking and partying part. Yes, that's what this holiday is all about. It even starts the night before, which is officially known as Koninginnenacht, "Queen's Night", where people all over Holland party like there's no tomorrow.

Outdoor live concerts are taking place around the country, dj's are spinning records on public squares, and a lot of beer-selling is happening on the streets by major Dutch beer brands. The largest celebration of Koninginnenacht happens in The Hague, where it actually originated in the early 1990's, when pre-Queen's Day riots were an increasing problem in the city.

Needless to say, this past weekend was decadent in more ways than one. A lot of drinking, eating and celebrating happened. And of course, I had to prepare something special for the day. Something fitting for Koninginnedag, something orange, something delicious and very refreshing since these past days were extremely hot. So, I decided to make smoothies. Mango, orange (naturally), banana and ginger smoothies.

They are perfect. The cooling mango quenches your thirst and the ripeness of the banana sweetens your senses. Then, as you continue to drink, the ginger suddenly hits you. You can feel it at the tip of your tongue and at the back of your throat, burning you just a tad, and you realize that this is no ordinary smoothie. This is potent stuff.
After all the beers consumed and all that alcohol entering the bloodstream, this smoothie feels like manna from heaven.

Who needs beer when you can have something like this?

Orange Juice, Mango, Banana and Ginger Smoothie
Barely adapted from the New York Times

This recipe calls for ginger juice, which is made by putting grated ginger in a cheesecloth and squeezing the heck out of it. The result is a ginger juice which added to this drink, has a brilliant flavor.
If you're not a fan of ginger, add 1/3 of the amount indicated in the recipe. The flavor will be barely noticeable but the smoothie will still have that "je ne sais quois" that will make it unique. You can omit it from the recipe altogether if you really don't like but, it will be your loss!

Dare I say, a little bit of vodka will transform this into a terrific "adult" smoothie. You knew I had to suggest this.

Yield: about 700 ml / 2 large glasses of smoothie

1 large ripe mango, cut into pieces
½ medium-sized ripe banana, cut into pieces
280 ml orange juice, freshly squeezed
3 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
5 large ice cubes

Special equipment: blender, cheesecloth


Make the ginger juice
Place the grated ginger in a cheesecloth, gather the edges of the cheesecloth together and squeeze the ginger well over a small bowl. You will end up with about 2 tsp of ginger juice.

Make the smoothie
In a blender, add the mango, the banana, the orange and ginger juice, and the ice cubes. Blend well until you have a smooth and frothy mixture.

Serve immediately.


  1. I love all these great stories about Holland and its traditions. It sounds like a really cheerful place to live. And the color of that smoothie is just perfect!

  2. Yes, I've been overwhelmed as well by the amount of beer people can drink in Germany: I trust you the people in Holland can drink even more beer, I would not want to withness that! Where on Earth do they put all that liquid?! And as much as I appreciate good beer, I'd love to try your smoothie.
    Thank you for the nice description of a special day. I love street parties.

  3. Sounds so delicious and a very healthy alternative to beer (probably even with the vodka!) I saw the picture of the free market, Roman would like that tricycle and kid's scooter very much! Fun to learn about the traditions there!

  4. What fun to hear about Koninginnedag! And how fun that everything is orange! We have an Austrian graduate student at the University who always says, "Orange is the perfect color." Perhaps he is Dutch at heart? Thanks for the wonderful smoothie recipe - it will be nice to sip on a hot desert day! ~ David

  5. I have all the required ingredients for this drink and will make it this week! I love to read your impressions on the dutch as my son's partner is a dutch and will be visiting us soon, (I love to have background info on their customs).

  6. I really enjoyed the "read" today. This is my first visit to your blog and I've spent some time exploring other of your posts as well. You've created a lovely and interesting spot for your readers to visit and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I've spent here. I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  7. I hope you added the vodka :)

  8. Do they really drink more beer than Aussies? Love reading all the traditions you've got here too & what do you know., Queen Beatrix & I share the same birthdate but that's not the funny thing...., Queen Beatrix is the name of my cat :)
    have a great week, love the mango pics too :)

  9. Goede koninginnendag! Love the name "Orange Craze"!

  10. That drink must taste divine! A wonderful combination of flavors.



  11. I like. Very much. A fine tribute to Queen B.

  12. What a lovely post for the Dutch royal family! :D Orange is a lovely colour too, it's always so sunny and happy :)

  13. Beautiful. Mangos lend a color like nothing else I know! I especially like the kick of ginger in your special beverage. A very fun read, Magda!
    Dag! Nancy

  14. I didn't know that the Dutch drank so much beer. I don't drink much and I only drink beer only when it's really hot. You smoothie on the other hand sounds wonderful and love the addition of ginger in it.
    I wish we also had a day when we could sell our old stuff. I have so many things to get rid of.

  15. A beautiful combination of fresh ingredients. Much better than beer ; )

  16. Yum! I made something similar a few months back but with yogurt. I LOVE the mango, orange, ginger combination! And banana, too! Yum :) Perfect for some nice, warm weather :)


  17. Heyy, the reason that the Dutch people drink so much beer is because the cocktails are really pricey here! These Dutch people are stingy (quite sure you've recognized this):) However, having been in several student parties, I'm sure that the English people beat the Dutch people in terms of beer drinking.

    Nice blog Magda, greetings from another expat living in the Northern side of NL.

  18. Hi Agnes, yes I have noticed that :)
    Thanks and nice to "meet" another expat here in The Netherlands.