A stroopwafel is a Dutch waffle, caramel, cookie sandwich treat. It’s got two thin waffles with a layer of caramel in between. They’re best eaten warm, heated on top of a hot cup of tea.
When I was a junior in college I studied abroad in Amsterdam, which is where I first tried them. What I can say is that stroopwafel stirred something primal in me. That first bite both made me feel more human, alive with all pleasure centers lighting up, and yet less civilized – I needed to hunt down more.
I was incensed that it took me twenty years to have this experience. While new to me, the stroopwafel has been delighting Dutch mouths for hundreds of years. How many American businessmen and women neglected to bring this treat to the North American continent makes my mind shed a tear for worthwhile business ventures. This is a big one that got missed. And meanwhile I spent my childhood eating treats that taste dirty in comparison to a stroopwafel. I may never forgive my culture for not introducing glory to me, leaving it to me to find it on another country’s shores.
What I will say is that my stroopwafel consumption that semester made up for lost time. Stroopwafels were a part of my daily eating, along with fresh fluffy bread and rich cheeses. I didn’t think twice about it until I was two months into the semester and felt one side fat roll resting on top of another side fat roll. That used to happen when I bent over, but now it was happening by simply sitting up straight or standing. It became distracting during my Dutch culture class. I also had to admit to myself that my butt wasn’t getting bigger from all the bicycling. It was getting bigger because stroopwafels were so good I needed a daily reminder of that subjective fact.
In retrospect I think I was addicted to stroopwafels and I think on some level I knew it at the time. I tried to kick the habit by not buying them at the Albert Heijn grocery store, but then someone would offer me one at their apartment and I’d accept. I only saw one option, which was to make myself physically sick of eating them. I’d achieve that by eating so many in one sitting that I’d vomit and never want to eat them again. I almost did just that. I bought a package of ten stroopwafels, sat down at the kitchen table, and started eating them. I stopped after seven. I felt disgusting at that point, and with each one being around two hundred calories and me being less than five feet tall I was nearly at my daily caloric intake in straight sugar. The problem is I didn’t let myself vomit. I didn’t go for that eighth stroopwafel to push myself over the edge. I remember looking at those last three stroopwafels and thinking I didn’t want to completely ruin stroopwafels for myself, I just didn’t want to eat so many all the time.
I took the remaining three and threw them in the trash. An hour earlier that would have been sacrilegious in my book, but now it was a testament to the separation. I went a month without eating any and then when I started up again I would enjoy one every once in a while. They were good, but not as good.
A couple months later I came home to the US and had my work cut out for me to get back in shape. I decided to try Weight Watchers, and on my way to the first meeting I decided to get a cup of tea from Starbucks. Low and behold they had started selling “Dutch caramel wafers”. It was a badass uncanny moment. I looked at them and I wondered if I should do it. I felt tension building inside between wanting to stay away and the curiosity of what they would taste like outside of Holland. This is exactly what I thought should have happened years ago, it’s finally in my neighborhood, and now I want to deny myself the treat?
I bought them, I ate them, and I was disappointed by them. They were too small to rest on top of my tea cup to heat, the caramel tasted cheap, and the waffle was dry. It was both reassuring and a letdown. It was an American import that missed the mark. The ineptitude of whoever made them would keep me from eating them again but it also made me sad for the treat itself because I knew how good stroopwafels could be. So in honor of and nostalgia for the great Dutch stroopwafel I wrote a poem for it. It’s a concrete poem in the shape of a stroopwafel. It’s stuck in an external hard drive I can’t figure out how to use, which is fitting. It’s another great stroopwafel I won’t get my hands on.
Danielle is an writer and improviser. She’s from New Jersey, had stints in Amsterdam, London, Santiago de Chile, and Washington DC and is now based in Chicago. She is now taking suggestions on where to go next.
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