Holland celebrates its yearly Carnaval season this week. As a traditionally Catholic festivity, it is held in the southern provinces of the country, such as Limburg, Brabant, Gelderland, and even Zeeland. The northern Protestant areas tend to do a lighter version, if at all, but still haven't quite gotten the hang of it yet :-).

The south sure makes up for it! Being the more lively half of the country, children and adults will dress up in costumes, parties are held at schools and work and the whole bottom half of the country is pretty much out of the running during these last carnaval days. For those party-poopers that wish to escape all lunacy, ski destinations are especially popular during this time of year. As you may remember, Holland has no mountains, so the Dutch flee en masse to hillier countries such as Switzerland, Norway, and Austria. Ski away!!

Carnaval organizations from various cities in the south will select a theme and organize parades with huge floats with which they reflect on important local events, make fun of political happenings or represent their organization, guild or sports club, each in their own distinct dialect. Most places will also adopt a different name during these last five days before Lent: the city of Den Bosch is now known as Oeteldonk, Breda becomes Kielegat and my own Venlo is now called Jocus. The city of Sittard, now 't Marotte Riek, is well known for its deep-fried Carnaval donut called nonnevot

The word Carnaval presumably originated from the Latin "carne vale", something akin to "farewell meat", as this period precedes Ash Wednesday, the first day of the forty days of Lent, a period of sobriety and penitence. Carnaval, therefore, is the last stop to indulge in all things human: food, drink, dance, and God knows what else. The official Carnaval period starts on November 11 (the number attributed to fools), the eleven of the eleventh, and reaches its climax during the weekend before Ash Wednesday.

But as it is, all good things come to an end, and when Ash Wednesday comes around it's time to regroup, repent and retreat. After partying for five days straight, people go back (to their own) home, wash the makeup off their face, remove the confetti from their hair, and put away their costumes. After so many indulgences, in Limburg it is traditional to celebrate the end of Carnaval, and the beginning of Lent with haringsalade, a pickled herring salad. Beets, potatoes, pickles, apple, and herring make a creamy, slightly tangy dish that is refreshing, nourishing, and makes up for the lack of meat. Eaten preferably with buttered cold toast, it's a good way to put up your feet, relax and mentally prepare for next year's Carnaval. After all, November 11th is only nine months away......

1 small jar of herring in sour cream, 12oz
2 beets, boiled and peeled
1 large potato, boiled and peeled
1 large apple, crisp
6 tiny dill pickles
1 tablespoon of capers
1 small shallot or onion
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Four slices of white bread

Dice the beets and potato. Peel and core the apple, then dice these as well. Chop the shallot or the onion, do the same with the dill pickles. Fish (no pun intended) the herring pieces from the sour cream dressing and cut them in half. Add two tablespoons of mayo to the remaining sour cream dressing in the jar, mix and toss carefully with the rest of the ingredients into a creamy salad until the beets have colored everything a purplish red. Add additional sour cream or mayo if the salad needs it.

Toast the bread, let it cool, and butter on one side. Cut in two or three pieces and serve with the salad.


  1. Yummy!!!!! Got to try it as soon as I can locate where to purchase that herring.

  2. hi
    this is so much fun ..looked for making Haringsalade on pinterest and ended up here :)
    i life in the netherlannds and love this blog !!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


I welcome your comments! Please be so considerate as to include a name, as anonymous comments will be deleted. Comments will appear as soon as they are monitored (usually within 24 hours). If you have a direct question, please consider emailing me at nicole at thedutchtable dot com for a faster response, or post on our Facebook page.