Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dutch Windmills Making a Comeback

The International Herald-Tribune reported yesterday that windmills are returning to the Netherlands.

The Dutch are building windmills again. Up and down the coast, out from port cities like this one, you can see them: white and tall and slender as pencils, their three slim blades turning lazily in the North Sea breeze.

These ones generate electricity, of course, rather than grinding grain. The government has already built one enormous farm of mills far off the coast, where they are inoffensive to tourists, and plans a second.

That's only because Ted Kennedy doesn't have a home on the coast of the Netherlands. ("These ones"??? Is that proper British English? Because it sure isn't correct in American English.)

Yet it is also building, and rebuilding, mills like the squat, homely ones that have seemingly always dotted the Dutch countryside and reflect as much the nature of the country as do tulips or Gouda cheese.

But the fast pace of change in (sic) is reviving interest in the old mills. As immigration changes the face of Dutch cities and globalization spreads its veil of uniformity over life in the Netherlands, many among the Dutch are looking for their roots. "It's a little bit of national pride," said Lukas Verbij, whose company, Verbij Hoogmade, is a leading mill builder and restorer.

Some of the renewed interest in mills is driven by the search for traditional food and drink. Patrick Langkruis, whose bakeshop, Het Bammetje, features 28 kinds of bread and 35 different rolls, uses only flour ground by a traditional mill. "The taste is fuller, there's more flavor," he said. "It's also because the grains are ground slowly."

The article describes more of the restoration of the mills and doesn't devote as much space to the wind turbines offshore.

Curiously, though the revival of the mills is a back-to-the-roots thing, many customers are natives of a wide range of countries, Streumer said, including Ethiopia, Morocco and Turkey. "Eighty percent of my customers are not natives of the Netherlands," he said.

One of them is Samson Tesfai, whose restaurant, The Taste of Africa, specializes in dishes of his native Eritrea, which he fled in 1986 because of the fighting between his homeland and Ethiopia.

Each week, he said, he buys mashela, sorghum, ground corn and wheat flour from Streumer to use in the ethnic dishes he prepares. "We can find it elsewhere," said Tesfai, 43. "But this is a good address, with a good product, so why go somewhere else?"

We hear so much about immigrant problems in Europe, which is understandable since bad news gets reported and good news only gets mentioned once in a while. So it's good to see a story that shows not just a peaceful co-existence among cultures in a European country, but a place where the cultures come together to benefit each other.

Let the windmills (and the wind turbines) turn...


Tsofah said...

Way cool!

Bekah said...

I realize this wasn't your point, but "these ones" made me shudder....

As for the rest...I'm with Tsofah - very cool!