For those of you wanting French-related posts, don't worry. This will probably be the last Netherlands-themed post that I will do in a while, at least until I get the opportunity to visit the country again.
The first thing that struck me as odd during my visit in the Netherlands was the commercial for a French cheese brand called Le Paturain. In the hotel, I tried to get a feel for the language simply by watching Dutch television. Then after a few minutes of staring at the screen and not understanding a word, I would cave in and start to watch English-language shows displaying Dutch subtitles.
Very often during the commercial breaks, I saw the recurring ad for Le Paturain cheese, an ad which demonstrates, amid the sounds of chirping crickets (rather than cicadas), a Provençale family excitedly noticing that the Dutch vacationers were arriving in their caravan.
"Les Hollandais, ils arriv-EUH!" exclaims the young man. The sleepy village awakens and the French set the table in a flurry.
"Où est le Paturaing?" asks the patronly Southerner with his marked nasal dialect, unable to find and present his guests with the missing cheese. The young man, for good measure, clutches at his shirt and pockets to see if he *somehow* misplaced the tub of cheese upon his slender person rather than leaving it behind on the tractor sitting in the lavender field. It is then that Maman produces the absent cheese just before the "apéro." The visiting Dutchman holds a glass of wine, wishes everyone "Chanté!" (santé = cheers/health; chanté= sang) and in camaraderie, with an almost fatherly gesture, claps the young man on the back.
The commercial itself isn't odd. In fact, it is pretty standard as far as advertisements are concerned. What is bizarre is the fact that this cheese, while actually being French, is one that I, despite having lived in France for four years, have never seen in France.
Nope. Not once.
Never in Paris. Never in Dijon, nor Burgundy. Never in the Loire Valley.
Heck, not even in the South of France...where the commercial was supposed to be taking place!
Mais où est le Paturaing? Not in France, apparently...
Once I returned home, I made sure to check in my local supermarket to see if I had overlooked Paturain cheese in the aisle. I still had yet to spot it, but it was to no avail.
The nagging feeling that I was missing something kept bothering me. I did some Internet research.
I got an answer and soon discovered why Paturain cheese was seemingly non-existent in France: the brand is marketed and sold as "Tartare" over here. And fromage Tartare seems to come across as a second-rate Boursin here in Franceland.
I know it's supposed to be used as an apéritif cheese, but shame on you, Provençale family. How dare you welcome guests who have bothered to drive, DRIVE, from far away only to present them with some run-of-the-mill cheese when France has much, much cheeses better than that.
The second thing which perplexed me was an encounter that I had with a drug dealer.
I was walking down a busy street at night when a hoodie-wearing entrepreneur with a furtive gaze asked if I was interested in buying some of his illicit merchandise.
I shook my head and said "no, thank you."
To my surprise, the man said:
To which I replied:
To which he insisted:
To which I reiterated:
I didn't know what was going on. Either this particular drug dealer was a fan of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" or I failed to realize that grotesquely tall, stubborn six-year-olds were getting in the business of selling narcotics.
He retorted once more:
For some reason, as I surfed through the various channels, my attention came to a program which displayed prawns (or shrimp as we 'Muricans call 'em). Given the context of the show, I expected that the prawns would be part of a cooking show which would then explain a delicious recipe to people who would probably never take the time and effort to make it in the first place.
Except these prawns were wearing costumes, and they were being controlled like marionettes through the aid of transparent strings. Utterly transfixed, I kept gazing at the indecipherable Dutch language sketch of prawns with high pitched voices. Just when I thought the show couldn't get any more bizarre, music came on and the puppet prawns began to dance in time to the music, their little claws, legs, antennae and dark eyes disturbingly wobbling to and fro.
Then, just when I thought things possibly couldn't get any more bizarre, the close-up shot of the dancing prawns suddenly panned out to reveal an entire Dutch audience watching and enjoying the music to which the prawns had been moving in time. The smiling Dutch hosts addressed their audience and home viewers. An artist came on the stage. The audience cheered. The music continued. The prawns kept dancing.
And I was dumbfounded.
To any Dutch readers who may come across this post: can you PLEASE explain to me just what on Earth did I watch on New Year's Eve??? Is Dancing High Pitched Voiced Prawns a regular feature on your shows?
Because if it is, then I'm moving to the Netherlands. Dancing Puppet Prawns is high quality entertainment, in my opinion.
Barb the French Bean
MAJOR SUPER IMPORTANT EUREKA UPDATE
Not only did I find out what the T.V. special was, a New Year's Eve Concert, I also discovered the masterminds behind the dancing prawns!
Apparently, they are the product of a comedy theatre group called Hotel Modern, a group which specializes, among other things, in collaborating with prawn sketches set to music!
While I can't show the actual program that I saw, I can provide you with this short documentary on how Hotel Modern makes their prawn sketches, called "Shrimp Tales". Enjoy.