One cookie per tea conspiracy

One cookie per tea conspiracy

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Expat blogger Dutched Pinay explores why you have to make the most of the one cookie you get when having tea with the Dutch?

Every expatriate who comes into contact with the average Dutch person has experienced this distinctive get-together etiquettes: the flying three kisses – I believe should be renamed to cheek-to-cheek-to-cheek since the lips point to the air anyway and its just the cheek that touches ground; the dragging Dutch birthday party circle – in which if you are Dutch challenged, you must, from time to time, exert effort to clear your throat so people know that you are not programmed to mute; and well, the one cookie conspiracy - served with your tea or coffee.

No one that I know can really explain why friends and relatives greet each other with the flying three kisses and why everyone has to sit in a circle during the compulsory birthday meets. It seems to me that the Dutch themselves have no clue why these peculiar acts have become national institutions, and surprisingly, why they are still adhered to.

Well maybe one day the answer will find me, but today, I am purposely here to report about the one cookie phenomenon, per tea, served at Dutch homes.

I have read with great interest that this quintessential drink (tea) actually owes its humble European beginnings to the Netherlands.

During the golden ages, the Dutch and the Portuguese were renowned for their outstanding feats of world navigation -- searching for the most sought-after spices in Asia, and this includes the exotic herbal indulgence, tea.

The Dutch, like the British are among the most avid contemporary tea drinkers in Europe but unlike its neighbour, tea drinking in the Netherlands is, as the Dutch would say – gewoon (normal, simple, just the way of life), nothing dramatic or stylish like the English tea culture. Tea drinking is therefore a mere activity spent and enjoyed at home (or at work).

So one weekend, we were invited to have tea with the in-laws. I always look forward to having tea with them because they can talk about anything under the sun. I always love a good conversation.

As predicted, after mother-in-law poured each of us a cup of aromatic tea, she then neatly placed the hot teapot in the center table and took the cookie can, opened it, and one by one, offered us a cookie. Being a polite and well-mannered guest, I took only one.

After everyone had one cookie in their hands, she closed the lid of the cookie canister tightly and placed it back on the center table far from everyone’s reach.

From what I have read and heard of, what mother-in-law just did, fosters and justifies the one cookie myth.

So, while sipping my hot cup of tea, my critical mind quickly went to work: Why not put a few cookies in a plate so everyone can grab one whenever they want it? Do we have to ask permission to get another serving? Doing such would be quite awkward I suppose. Or should I just wait until I am offered again? Is this being cookie frugal? Oh wait; a one cookie per tea regulation!

The inquisitive in me pried on.

"I have heard about this one cookie myth served per cup of tea in the Dutch culture… "

"Oh, what do you mean?" mother-in-law asked.

It was my golden opportunity so I explained further the details of this one cookie mystery, putting emphasis on the closed lid of the cookie canister, hoping that, perhaps, I can extract some logical answers from her.

"Aha, I get what you mean!" beams the mother-in-law, her eyes lighting up.

"Due to air exposure, serving the cookies in a plate is not wise; they will quickly become stale (soft). It is also not advisable to put them back because the sweet little treats will not taste as fresh as they once were. So if they are not consumed, they must be thrown away. This is also the reason why the cookie is offered one by one to the guest and why the lid of the cookie canister is closed properly after."

"Ohhh... that never crossed my mind..."

With all the wicked judgements swimming inside my head, I felt a little bit ashamed.

Two words: Economical and Practical.


Reprinted with permission from Dutched Pinay's full blog.

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1 Comment To This Article

  • khutulun posted:

    on 24th July 2009, 03:17:21 - Reply

    For a practice that boils down to mundane economics, I'm amazed the Dutch seem to relish in it as much as they do (or at least, they take great pleasure in telling buitenlanders about this cookie business).

    The interesting question then becomes, not what the rationale for the actual practice is, so much as what it says about the Dutch psyche that they take so much pride in telling everyone that the Dutch have a habit of handing out a lone cookie over a cuppa.