Food isn’t just essential for life, it can also hold a lot of memories. Certain cakes baked for birthdays for example, soups made for us when we weren’t feeling well; rituals of special stews and bakes made for things like bonfire night and other celebrations, and sacred family recipes passed down from generation to generation.
Dutch food has always held a special place in my heart thanks to my Grandmother. As children we would eagerly await tea time for slices of her home made bread topped with chocolate muisjes (who doesn’t like chocolate and bread?) and winter lunchtime bowls of the best pea and ham soup (I have her recipe, I need to make it soon), followed by puddings that usually involved stewed fruit of some kind or another. Returning from winter walks usually meant there would be hutspot (in this case usually mashed potato with carrots, onions and LOTS of butter, although we had a kale and potato version too) served with smoked sausages and gravy, and at Christmas we would work our way through her stock of spekulaas – then not so available in the UK as they are today.
I have passed these memories on to my children, and they also look forward to such foods on the rare occasions that we get back to visit my grandparents today. So, when we were in Amsterdam, I had to go to Moeders. This is a restaurant dedicated to Mothers everywhere, and full of traditional Dutch dishes just like Mum (or Granny mostly in my case) used to make.
This place is not huge, and the decoration is definitely chaotic with assorted tables and chairs crammed in, each one haphazardly laid with the best mish mash of plates, glasses and cutlery (back when it opened twenty six years ago, the owner asked his first guests to each bring a plate, a glass and cutlery!), but there’s something special about it.
Every inch of space on the walls is taken up with photographs, of you’ve guessed it. Mothers. Customers are still able to leave a photo of their own mum to add to the collection today (I think I could have spent a day studying them all, especially as there are more than a few that I am sure the Mother’s in question would be horrified at!), and a space will be found for it somewhere amongst the portraits of old Mums, new mums, mothers still here, and mothers who haven’t been around for a very long time. This makes for such a touching collage that I almost cried in to my pea soup (which was excellent by the way, not as good as my Grandmother’s but still excellent!) going over fond memories of my own Mum and both Grandmothers.
The food is mostly Dutch comfort food. The kind you would have grown up with in these parts, and typically involving a lot of potato and meat, but it’s good (there are of course plenty of vegetarian options). Along with the soup, we also had a tasting plate of various cheeses, smoked fish and little pastries, then it was on to the mains with mash with kale and smoked sausage going down well, and Mr R opting for ribs, chips and coleslaw. Then on to the serious matter of pudding, Dutch fruit cake, and a little tasting plate of poffertjies (a little like flat aebleskiver), a vanilla pudding with fruit compote and a spekulaas brulee. Service is friendly and unhurried (severely unhurried in our case, but that was not really an issue)…
This place really works as it combines food with nostalgia. Look around you and a lot of people aren’t talking much, and not only because they are busy studying the photo lined walls. A lot of them are lost in thought, proof in itself that memories and food go hand in hand. For a moment even I was nine years old again, life was much less complicated, all that mattered was what we might be having for dinner that evening, and best of all, someone else had cooked it. Definitely worth a visit, and you most definitely have to book.
Moeders, Rozengracht 251
1016 SX Amsterdam