The Northern Times contributor Matilda Siebrecht continues her series on local businesses during the Coronavirus outbreak. This time, she looks at how people in Groningen can still get a gastronomic experience with a range of local treats available
By Matilda Siebrecht
If you hear the word “Christmas”, what do you think of? The hope of snow, and the crisp chill of frost in the air? The twinkling lights hanging over the streets, and colourfully wrapped presents under the tree? Or, as in my own case, is it the anticipation of festive food?
Food is such a big part of so many events and festivals, and Christmas is certainly no exception. Although there are many different traditions that vary from family to family, the majority of these are usually focused around a homemade meal, especially on the big day itself, which is also a wonderful way to experience a distanced Christmas too, as is the reality for many Internationals.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “This is a series on small businesses. Where is she going with all this talk of homemade food?” The answer to these questions links back to the central part of any homemade meal – the raw ingredients.
The majority of people buy their food and drinks from the supermarket, which is usually a perfectly acceptable option. However, in the current situation, going to a large enclosed space full of hundreds of other people milling around is not a particularly tempting option. And this isn’t even considering the excess of plastic packaging and the limited selection of local produce at this time of year. So, what other options are available?
The first is of course the local weekly market, with seagulls trying to steal steaming fresh kibbling and sellers crying out their tempting deals. In Groningen, market stalls can be found nearly every day, although the main event that stretches across the Vismarkt and Grote Markt is on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Of course, Coronavirus has created a list of new regulations, including coming alone to the market, spending the minimum amount of time there, keeping 1.5m distance, and paying as much as possible with card.
Thuisbezorgd has also begun a partnership with several of the more regular stalls, so that you no longer need to visit the market yourself but can order deliveries straight to your door. There’s also Bezorgbakkie, a business by two Groningers that can deliver the market’s goodies via electric delivery bike!
Another option is a local service called De Streekboer, which collaborates with farmers from Friesland and Groningen to sell locally produced food that you can order online once a week. De Streekboer was founded in 2015 by Sandra Ronde-van der Laan in order to create a central location to buy local products from different farmers. “I was amazed that there was so much beauty growing locally, but people ate so few products from the region,” says Ronde-van der Laan. “You could get your dairy from one farmer and your vegetables from another, but there was no easy way to get all your regional products in one place.”
Their website stocks everything from milk to blueberry jam, and every product listing provides details of the farm that it is sourced from. “Local food is so much more fun,” says Ronde-van der Laan. “It is better for yourself, your environment, and the planet. Additionally, a record number of people now have diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, which makes it increasingly important to think about what you eat and where your food comes from.” From the start of increased coronavirus restrictions, they also started offering a ‘vegetable bag’ that can be delivered to your house. However, the most common practice is to place an order before 10am on a Wednesday morning, and collect it at one of several locations throughout the northern provinces of the Netherlands, all the details of which can be found on their website.
Companies like De Streekboer create an easy and sustainable way to buy locally-sourced food, in a way that maintains the same sense of open community that has been the theme throughout this series on small businesses. “For local oriented companies, making profit is not our priority,” says Ronde-van der Laan. “Our mission is to make the world a better place.” And if that isn’t getting into the Christmas spirit, I don’t know what is!