It is a well-known fact that the Dutch do not eat their herring fried or baked. They eat herring raw, with plenty of chopped onions. The herring’s tail is grasped between thumb and forefinger, lifted high above one’s head and then lowered ceremonially into the mouth.
A herring lover will dip the herring in raw onions before consigning the fish to its fate. Herring can also be eaten on a bread roll, with or without chopped onions. The vendor will be happy to cut the herring into bite-size pieces for the less daring!
Herring is sold year round at market stalls and in fish stores. It makes a nourishing light lunch or a satisfying snack. It contains vitamin D, calcium for the bones and mineral salts, the greatest safeguard against disease. Herring is a great food for people leading strenuous lives because it is both healthy and very easy to digest.
The peak in herring sales is still around the time when the boats dock in Scheveningen with the first catch of the season. Flag Day (Vlaggetjesdag) is a fine sight to see when the harbor of Scheveningen, a vacation resort and seaport near The Hague, is full of boats decked out with colorful flags. Generally held on the last Saturday in May, Flag Day gives local tradesmen the opportunity to display their crafts and wares. The ritual has become a tourist attraction and a way of promoting the new herring season. The herring ships all race back to port where the first ship to arrive is awarded a $1,500 prize! This money is then donated by the winning ship’s captain to Greenpeace. Queen Beatrix is given the first barrel of the new herring.
Here’s a chance for you, too, to taste this year’s early catch. But don't worry, herring is available all year round.
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