Possibly one of the strangest things I’ve ever encountered while traveling is that the Dutch like to eat hagelslag (sprinkles or jimmies) on their buttered bread for breakfast. The first time I saw this was when I lived with a Dutch roommate in Rome. One morning, she broke up a loaf of Italian bread, smothered it with creamy butter, and dumped on an outrageous amount of hagelslag.
Hagelslag is traditionally chocolate, and was created as a request by a 5-year-old boy for some sort of chocolate bread topping. It was named hagelslag because it resembled the frequent bouts of hail in the Netherlands–so it’s literally chocolate hail.
These sprinkles come in a flavors other than chocolate: the most popular ones being anise seed (black licorice), called muisjes, and fruit, called vruchtenhagel. While any of the three can be enjoyed as a breakfast of champions, the muisjes are also part of a Dutch tradition: when a baby is born, you’d take beschuit, a twice-baked biscuit, and smear it with butter and top it with the muisjes in blue for a boy or pink for a girl. This is called beschuit met muisjes (muisjes means “mice”) and is apparently supposed to symbolize fertility.
The only variety I’ve tried are the vruchtenhagel. I figured fruit was probably best for breakfast, right? While I’m glad I tried it, it’s certainly a Dutch tradition I will likely avoid in the future. These little sugary treats were a bit much for my taste buds first thing in the morning.
Also, a fun fact: the Dutch eat more than 30 million pounds (14 million kilos) of hagelslag a year. With a population of roughly 16.5 million people, that’s almost 2 pounds (or 1 kilo) of hagelslag per person.