I’m a very happy man Reading My Dream Comes True 14 minutes Next A New Year

 My Dream Comes True

We all have those things in our life. You know, the things of great importance. Things that overshadow all other aspects of life. Sometimes, these things are events, and the people attending these events are, simply put, different from us normal folk. We have great respect for them, mind our manners when we are interacting with them, and we never tell them no. I hope you know the kind of people I am talking about.

When it comes to being this important in our part of the North Holland countryside, there is one group of people that actually fits the bill. Two villages over, there is an annual club, a committee of sorts, which gathers in order to judge the quality of a select few varieties of legumes, or grain legumes. It may depend on which variety of English you speak what you call them, so I will try to give several different names of the food I am talking about. I am talking about the (grain)legumes and pulse(s), kinds of beans or peas that are very old, traditional Dutch foods, which have been slowly forgotten over the last decades. But this club is dedicated to keeping the traditional preparation (and consummation) of these foods alive, and has been doing that for over 120 years. It is therefore a well-known event, and being invited is a dream come true for many, including me.

This year, fortune was on my side. I was asked if I would like to receive an invitation to the annual tasting dinner, to be a guest at their yearly gathering. Fun fact about incredibly chic people like these: when you are asked to attend a party, before you actually get an invitation, you are asked if you would like to receive an invitation. This way, you can decline beforehand if it’s not your kind of event or if you are unable to be there at the date they give you, and you will not have to reach out and say no if you have already been formally invited. This prevents both parties from experiencing disappointment. 

So this meant that I had to be present at the house of the Broersen Family on a pleasant December evening. The rain had finally let up in celebration of our dinner party, so everyone was in a great mood. The location of the gathering changes every year as different members host their colleagues on this important night, and this year we had gotten together at the Korte Ruigeweg in Oudesluis, about twenty minutes away from my own house.

Our host Siem was busy at the stove, chopping up various side dishes as three large pans of (grain)legumes were cooking in front of him. He had just gotten to dicing pickles when the president of the club pulled a flask of herbal liquor from his coat. Before the night started, we got the message that the reporter from the local newspaper was unable to attend the party as he was home sick. John Oud, a well-known local reporter at the Schager Courant, was first invited to the committee decades ago to report on the event, but it turned out that he had a very refined palette and he had been promoted from reporter to judge on the spot. We did video call him, and he noticed me right away: What’s the daffodil grower doing there?! We all wish him well and hope he is feeling better soon.

After some small talk about everyone’s life and work, we were invited to take our seats at the dinner table.

There were three full pans waiting for us: lemon/sulphur beans, witte Krombek/ white bean, and the Grauwe Erwt (literally: gloomy grey pea), also known as the Eroïca.


An Eroïca that has been soaked for over 12 hours.

First up: the Eroïca. Wait, it might be better to first introduce a few of my highly regarded dining companions, now that I think of it. The driving force behind this group is none other than Mr Jan Dekker, accompanied by his daughter Marjan. Mr Dekker is 89 years old, and according to Siem, even a shotgun doesn’t stand a chance of ending his life. Both Mr Dekker and his daughter are amazingly healthy for their age. Must have something to do with those Eroïcas, if you ask me. Once upon a time, Mr Dekker took over his father’s business, a company that is now over 120 years old, and he has been in the Legumes Judging Committee for over 60 years. Nowadays, Dekker Seeds is run by Peter, another member of the committee. Peter is allowed to be present at the dinner, but as he is the one growing the different foods we are supposed to be judging tonight, he is not allowed to contribute to the resulting judgments. He must focus on the preparation of his beloved foods, in order to ensure a fair judging process that lets every legume show its best qualities.


Peter Vader, the most beloved source of Eroïcas in The Netherlands.

Do you sell a lot of these, Peter? I ask him. No, not really, not anymore. We used to, but nowadays there is not a penny to be made. We sell a couple hundred bags per year, but taking them out of our assortment after 120 years… not going to happen either, they’re my own favourite and there are some loyal customers that I don’t want to let down. If I stop growing them it becomes even harder to get them. And after all, these legumes just belong in my shop. 

Another colourful figure present at the dining table was Matty Dekker, daughter of Jan and sister of Marjan. Matty was busy frying bacon when we arrived, and she was the one to make sure all legumes were properly soaked beforehand. And, most importantly, Matty knows how long to cook every variety and which side dishes should be served with the different courses in order to make them look and taste their best. She made sure every plate on the table was perfect, and I already heard her talk to herself about the things that looked best. I knew one thing for sure: if I wanted to make the most of this night, I had to make sure I was seated next to Matty.


The Legumes Tasting Committee.

I can imagine that reading this makes you long for your own plate of Eroïcas, so let me tell you how to prepare them according to Matty:


Left: a soaked Eroïca; Right: the dry version.


Eroïcas à la Matty:

- Soak the beans 12 hours in advance
- Cook the beans 1 to 2 hours in the same water in which they have been soaked. Do add a pinch of salt when they cook.
- Move the pan to the table without draining the water. Keeping the water in there makes sure that the beans stay at the right temperature as you inevitably go for a second serving.
- Use a large spatula to serve, so you don’t get the water on your plate.


Add to your plate:

- Diced pickle;
- “Amsterdamse Uitjes”, a variety of small, yellow pickled onions;
- Pearl onions;
- Diced raw white onion
- Piccalilly sauce
- Fried salted bacon pieces
- Onions baked by Siem
- Yellow raisins (yes, really!)
- Melted butter


Bon Appetit!


This was my first plate of the night, and I have seldom had anything like it. My absolute favourite food. The one part that is not for me is the fried bacon, but that may have been the preparation: someone did come in and ask how to turn off the smoke alarm…

I wasn’t the only one enjoying myself. The Committee’s President decided after only about three bites that he would award these beans a 9 out of 10 this year. The others came in with their own judgments after he had spoken, but an agreement was reached very quickly: the Eroïca would get its 9 this year. Time for another serving, it may victimize some underwear later tonight, but for now we were having a phenomenal time.

Extra information for people who have never eaten legumes or beans in large quantities: they are infamous for causing gas some time after consumption.

After the Eroïca, the lemon/sulphur bean was waiting for us. I found both names were used for this type, but if you don’t know it, you may be able to type the word into Google and simply look at a picture. That will give you an idea. Anyway, I wasn’t very keen on trying the lemon bean. White beans are not usually my favourite. But skipping a course is nothing if not rude, especially when you are invited at someone else’s house, so I let myself be served again by an enthusiastic Matty. She told me to add nothing but a bit of syrup and molten butter, then these beans are at their best. And Holy Moly, I was wrong. White beans are great! I loved the lemon bean, absolutely fantastic if you ask me.

Time for a grade. A 7, the President spoke very decisively. I felt my heart break. How was this possible? Only a 7 for this poor, amazing bean? The other members of the jury had some more things to say, but they did agree with the 7/10, I was devastated. I had to try and right the situation, so I asked the President if he really felt sure about it, was there no way to maybe slightly increase the rating of this bean? But no, unfortunately he was very sure. They were too well done, too soft, and that could be due to the time they were cooked, but it most likely wasn’t: they were a bit soft, a bit weak, because of the terrible weather this year. They had been very wet outside on the land, and had not been able to dry. The weather has not been as wet as it was this year since 1907, Mr Dekker added, so the lemon bean simply did not stand a chance. Matty pointed her fork towards my plate. Look over here, she said, picking at one of the beans. You can see these small, black dots. Those are a type of fungus. That is because of the rain, and you must know that besides taste and structure, the appearance of the bean also counts for the judgment. Matty pointed to a few more beans and told me she was lucky to even be getting a 7/10 with this result, so I was silenced after all. Poor lemon bean. Structure and appearance may not be at their best this year, but please don’t skip out on them: taste is still sensational. Just a little bit of syrup and butter is all she needs, and everyone did go back for seconds for this course as well. It may cause some blankets to fly away during the night, but some sacrifices need to be made.

Peter Vader, the grower and seller of these beautiful legumes, did agree with me when we saw each other the following day. I had gone to his shop to buy a kilogram of Eroïcas and a bag of cat food, which he also sells. Both of us felt like the Eroïca deserved her 9/10, but we agreed that the lemon bean had been rated too harshly and the Krombek too nicely. But unfortunately, we could not interfere with the decisions of the committee. 

I already named the last bean: the Krombek. Another white bean, but different from most other white beans due to a bump the others don’t have. The Krombek leaves the table with an 8/10. I did not really find it that special, but maybe this bean just isn’t for me. I found it to be somewhat dusty, a bit flat. Maybe I would have felt different if the Krombek and the lemon bean had switched places, but I’m not sure. If you like beans that taste a bit dimmer than usual, this may just be the perfect bean for you. 

The night was coming to an end. All beans and peas were judged, and we finished with a final plate of the night’s ultimate winner: the Eroïca.

It saddens me greatly that so many people underestimate the many great characteristics of legumes. Especially Eroïca. The whole legume-category may be a recommended food from national health services, but who looks at that in the year 2023? If more people would be able to truly appreciate the value of this food, the world could be in a much healthier place. Finally, the Eroïca and other legumes are often grown locally, which means they are extremely environmentally friendly. You don’t just make yourself happy when serving yourself these forgotten powerfoods, you are making the world a better place.

Another final note is that the Eroïca is often confused with peas called capuchins or marrowfat peas. They are alike, but not the same. The Eroïca has a more distinct taste, and is simply better, according to many people. The marrowfat pea is more popular as she has way thicker skin and is therefore much more suited to sell as a canned food. This is the reason she is the more popular pea.

Time to stop, I’m quite finished writing. 

Happy holidays, see you next time,

Carlos van der Veek


PS: One last message! After Pien translated this story, she asked: why not sell the people these Eroïcas, then? She’s right, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself. I only think about flower bulbs. So I went back to Peter and asked him, and what do you know: he was allright with it. Over the next three weeks, you can buy Eroïcas, lemon beans, and Krombekken in the Fluwel web shop in the category Gift Ideas.


Eroïcas, lemon beans, and Krombekken, a bag of 1 kilo, Euro 12,95.