Nieuwe Haring explained to foreigners
14 Juni 2014
You, foreigner in the
Netherlands, for sure will have heard of haring,
this little fish the size of a sardine, which the Dutch prefer
to eat cold, and raw. Because they are not totally nuts they season
the small corpses with pickled cucumber, called zuur, and raw
onions, called ui.
What you probably don't
know is the phenomenon Nieuwe Haring, or maatjesharing.
Journalists use their own term
of Hollandse Nieuwe. It is quite a thing here in
Holland. It means: the new herring. Isn't all herring new? you will
ask frightfully, thinking of the potentially dangerous rawness of the
product. The answer is no.
It works like this:
The Dutch, as you must
know by now for it is one of their best qualities if not their only,
excel at business making, thus cost reducing and profit margins
enhancing. These skills applied to the business of fetching herring,
which is, after all, a business like all others, mean as many sales
as possible, against as few fishing expeditions as possible.
After centuries of
exhaustingly going out to the far sea, they gathered they could
manage with a single move. Every year they set a date, in June. Then
they send the whole fleet to the North Sea, catch as many fish as
they can then come back.
That day when they reach
port is a National Holiday. Schools, businesses and public services
are closed, to allow every citizen to go and get their Nieuwe
Haring. Fanfares play in the streets, men drink lots of beer and
radio DJ Chiel Beelen shuts himself up in a barrel to eat nothing but
herring for three days. The day following Vlaggetjesdag (that's how
this particular day of shore reaching of the herring fleet is
officially called) they put all the herring left in barrels full of
salt and sell them all year with the appellation Oude Haring.
The herring fisherman
enjoys a life of leisure. He works say a week a year. The rest of the
year, he gets his salary paid by the government, which holds him in high esteem, because of the iconic status of herring in the
Next time: “The Ideal of
Dutch Motherhood” as seen through the example of boterham met
hagelslag being fed to a toddler.
Tourist Association Amsterdam