Roughly 58 years have passed since the Netherlands experienced anything resembling a hurricane. In 1953, the North Sea Flood devastated the country’s southern provinces and caused 1,836 deaths. (For anyone interested in Dutch literature, Margriet de Moor delivers a touching fictional account of the natural disaster in her novel, The Storm).
All seriousness aside, I think this tragedy has forever scarred the Dutch psyche. I know hurricane trauma when I see it. Miami gets a few hurricane scares every year–frantic citizens snatch everything from the shelves of local supermarkets and make long lines at the gas pumps. Usually these scares end with a good hurricane party, some debris and a few downed power lines. I’ve never lived through the trauma of a direct hit–so I almost find it cozy, in a “I’m scared shitless and maybe enjoying my last natif” sort of way.
Every time I walk into the local Albert Heijn supermarket, I get a flashback of Miami’s hurricane season sans the cozy part.
Although no Dutch of my generation have experienced a hurricane in the Netherlands– a trip to the local Albert Heijn Supermarket will convince you that a category 5 hurricane is careening straight toward Amsterdam.
The shelves are empty. Lines are long. Aisles are crowded. Normally proper and polite old ladies elbow through the throngs to grab the last bag of freeze-dried marshmallows, and workers constantly block aisles to replenish unbelievably bare shelves. It’s mayhem from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Everyday.
I ignored Albert’s deficiencies at first. I was too busy gorging myself on shrimp chips, peanut sate sauce, stroop waffles and chocolate sprinkles to notice the dreadful shopping experience. But my honeymoon with Fat Albert is now over.
sugar high hurricane adrenaline wore off, I realized not only does the shopping experience leave much to be desired, so does the quality of the food.
I’ll admit it. I miss the locally grown food shares, the community gardens and the beautifully stocked produce bins of Miami Beach. Silver lining: I needed this kick in the butt to motivate me to discover the markets, ethnic grocers and local producers that I know exist in Amsterdam (but felt too intimidated to interact with).
And while it would be nice to find great food in a convenient Albert Heijn on every corner, that hurricane took a different path.