On the practice of prakken....

Table manners are an important reflection of upbringing and common courtesy. Both hands above the table, no leaning on your elbows, no talking and chewing at the same time, no stuffing your mouth full or taking a sip while you still have food in your mouth....for those of us that were raised in Holland, these rules for board behavior sound probably very familiar.

Not all eating etiquette, however, transposes well into other cultures. Whereas in America most foods are served to be consumed with only a fork, the Dutch use both a fork and a knife to eat: the fork firmly lodged in the left hand, the knife in the right. The fork (vork) is used to spear the food and bring it to the mouth, the knife (mes) cuts a piece of meat, vegetable or potato as needed. Open-faced sandwiches are cut into neat little squares, fruit is skillfully severed into edible pieces. It's all very polite and educated and, the Dutch, we innerly scoff a little bit at those people that still eat sandwiches with their hands, peel oranges with their fingers and scoop up rice with a fork.

Mash those potatoes well
But do not be deceived by such haute haughtiness. Because behind closed doors, when we are alone, we subject the food on our plate to a practice so abhorrent, so abominable that even the most barbarous barbaric would drop its jaw in disgust. This is the practice of prakken. If you are familiar with Dutch cuisine, or have read the articles on this blog, you know that it suggested to always have "jus", pan gravy, with the meat when you serve potatoes. Why? Because this fatty fluid is the key to prakken.

Now what the heck is prakken? Prakken is having a beautiful plate of steaming, perfect globes of crumbly boiled potatoes, over which you drizzle hot, greasy pan juice and then brutally attack with a fork, mashing the potatoes, sometimes even mixing in the vegetables, and reducing it to a soft pulpy state. Why do we do this? I have no clue. But it tastes good.

Add enough pan gravy

As young children, when we just start to eat solids, our food is often prakked for us, sometimes with sweet applesauce mixed in to mask the taste of liver, Brussels sprouts or whatever else we tend to dislike at that age, and to make it more palatable. Perhaps that's why we still prak, I don't know. But mashing your boiled potatoes, mixing it with the gravy of the meat and having the slightly sweet, savory flavor of those mashed potatoes is a whole new experience. A more grown-up, and socially acceptable prakked food would be a stamppot, of which we have many varieties. But the home-made, plate-local prak is praktically, no pun intended, illegal, forbidden and most certainly "not done". And that is what makes it so sweet........

So prak away. At home, that is. Just not when you've been invited to dinner at some new friend's home. Or if a potential new employer invites you to a lunch interview. I know you'll be tempted when you see the gravy from the meat dripping onto the plate and slowly making its way towards the potatoes, but prakken is just not done. At least not in public!


  1. great blog this, really! all the dutch recipes I could think of!


  2. Smakelijk gelachen om dit stukje, erg herkenbaar! Mooi blog heb je!


  3. I love your blog,and this article in
    particular.My family and I love a
    "prakje".We do it all the time,love it.

  4. Waar zijn de speklapjes

  5. Wonderful site. Thank you. You described this so well....May have to take up a long set aside tradition.

  6. I love eating my food that way. My husband thinks it's gross (his parents are Dutch too) but I think it's delicious.


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