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Pea soup enthusiasts compete for World Cup ‘snert’ making

Mr. Cupido wins first prize

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

GRONINGEN, the Netherlands - The word sort of translates as ‘rubbish’, but Low Lands-style green pea soup (erwtensoep, commonly known as ‘snert’) is a favourite dish for most Dutchmen. The soup, particularly the very thick variety, is a wintertime staple food, for many households at ‘home’ and abroad. It even merits a World Cup competition. Recently the tenth such event was held to determine who, in all the world, made the best pan of snert.

Dozens of cooks strove to impress the jury with their favourite recipes at the competition held in the World Cup’s hometown of Groningen. With subtle changes or additions to some of the traditional ingredients, they vied for the title, which was captured by Willem Cupido, an entrepreneur from the Frisian island of Terschelling. Cupido would not part with his winning recipe.

Snert, an uncomplimentary Dutch word for substandard quality, rubbish or trash, the soup hardly should deserve such a connotation. However, the name does not refer to its taste or to quality but to the fact that soup originally was made from leftovers with green or split peas thrown in for substance. The peas now are the main ingredients, as are a smoked sausage and pork hocks. Other items always added to the soup (eventually very thick) include potatoes, leeks, celeriac and onion. The soup is filling and is particularly in favour during the winter season, for example at outdoor skating events.

Truly worldwide appeal

With no ‘definitive’ recipe for snert, it stands to reason that everyone - amateur or professional - has his own formula for making the dish, hence the basics for a World Cup cook-off. A pinch of this, a handful of that, some more herbs and spices, some different kind of meat. All is par for the course and the basis for an individual world championship.

That pea soup - there is a French (Canadian) version - is truly a Dutch dish, can be attested by the number of ‘immigrants’ who over the years have participated in the cook-off. There have been contestants with roots in Surinam, the Dutch East Indies, and at the most recent championships, a refugee from Afghanistan. All adjusted their snert to a sense of taste brought over from their old country, and perhaps too spicy for those who like their erwtensoep rather bland (and with a slice of roggebrood or pumpernickel).

From East Indies-bound ships cooks

Snert, because it is based on individual recipes handed from generation to generation, is a dish which changes with the venue and the environment. A rookworst in some countries needs to be substituted; potatoes in Canada or the U.S. hardly are comparable to the ones available in the Netherlands. Celeriac might be too bland for some, cayenne too spicy for others. A pork hock may even be too iffy as main meat ingredient, but, ohh the aroma!

Follow the thoughts of the old-time cooks aboard Indies-bound vessels in the 17th and 18th century and experiment with whatever is available in the pantry! The result might be a different erwtensoep each time, but never is ‘snert’!

One recipe for erwtensoep/snert - and about 200 other Dutch recipes! - can be found in the cookbook ‘Lets Go Dutch’, available from Vanderheide Publishing, at US$14.50/Can$19.95 plus s/h and taxes where applicable. Phone 1-800-881-0705 to order or visit our catalogue website at