Monday, August 3, 2015

Folk Dance and Warfries

I love the Servus Heritage Days Festival, at least, in principle.  Our city's many ethnic communities coming together to share their songs, dance, music and, most importantly, their cuisine; what's not to like?

Well, in my case, and in no particular order, crowds, heat, lineups, chaos, and direct sunlight. It's often a struggle, the decision to attend or not, but this year, Glory's dance school (Scoil Rince Mahoney) was performing there for the first time, so we all made our way down there late Saturday afternoon.

There were traces of that whole Circle of Life thing with Glory's performance, since it was at Heritage Days 10 years ago that she first saw "the dancers with the bouncy hair", and she was still on about it two years later when we signed her up.  She likes competing, but loves performing, so getting to perform during 4 different sets over four hours was both challenging and rewarding.

Auntie Tara and Jerry and Jason came to watch, as did Jeff and Heather and their son Connor, and a lady from church told us on Sunday she saw her there too.  I watched three of the four sets, and came back to watch the hard-shoe performance at the end of the 4th.  There were good sized crowds there at the Irish Sports & Social Society pavilion who were very appreciative of the young dancers, so hopefully history will repeat itself and Glory's teacher Lori might end up with a couple of new students out of it.

I had slept terribly the night before, and wasn't up to traversing the entirety of the grounds, but there was plenty to see and do at the far end of Hawrelak Park,  I had a bul-go-gi taco from the Korean pavilion, and shared some spicy Nepalese chicken and rice with Tara and her family. It was hot and a bit muggy so I had two separate fruit slushes from the Indonesian tent, fruit punch and passion fruit, and they were both delicious, but more importantly, they were cold and wet.

The most interesting thing I tried though was from the Dutch cultural society.  How, having Dutch in-laws has exposed me to a few tasty treats from the Low Countries, but I had never had the opportunity to sample patatjes oorlog.

Audrey said she and Fenya had shared a serving earlier, and although it didn't sound particularly appetizing, they both declared it to be "sooo good", so when there was very little lineup at the Nederlands site, I strode to the window.

"I'm not sure where it is on the menu," I confessed, "But I understand I can get french fries with...peanut sauce?" A nod. "...And onions?"

The hostess smiled, "That's right, patatjes oorlog."

"Oor [rhymes with boor]-lawg?" I attempted.

A bigger smile.  "More like 'oor-lauch' with a 'cchh' in there," she corrected. "It means 'war fries'."

Soon I had a cone of delicious, golden brown, perfectly cooked fries, covered with a generous serving of peanut sauce and freshly chopped onion.  Not an intuitive combination of flavours to be sure, but if prior experience has taught me anything, it is that those Dutchmen know a thing or two about serving up french-fried potatoes, the staple food of my people.

True to form, the warfries were delicious; it turns out that the peanut sauce is probably not the result of WWII meat rationing as I had assumed from the name, but more likely to be a result of the close ties between Dutch culture and Indonesia, where they once had a colony and now receive a fair bit of immigration from.  The oorlog title is probably a reference to how chaotic and messy the fries are, but this makes them no less tasty or enjoyable; the peanuts added both a savoury flavour and crunchy texture to the affair, which the crisp, pungent onions complemented nicely.

In Holland, warfries are often served with mayonnaise and a dollop of sambal, a spicy pepper sauce that I would have loved to have enhanced my serving with.  As it was though, it was a great way to end the day's snacking; just a little bit adventurous and completely delicious.

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