“Aap, noot, mies, wim, zus, jet, teun, vuur, gijs, lam, kees, bok, weide, does, hok, duif, schapen.” About fifteen years ago, these seventeen Dutch words could often be heard at our dining table, uttered in a rhythmical tone by my brother and I. Our inspiration? The plates we were eating from. Developed as a teaching method for children, the iconography soon entered the commercial market and came to feature on tableware.
My grandmother told me that I was not the only one learning Dutch while eating: the ladies with a Polish husband in the neighborhood would marvel about the “aap-noot-mies” products: “My husband is often tired after a day of hard work,” one would tell my grandmother, “but practicing a few Dutch words while eating is a minor commitment for him.” Another would proudly share: “We started out with just one word a day and now he nearly knows the meaning and pronunciation of all seventeen!”
It proves how such a mundane object as a plate can have meaning and significance, in this case both to me and to the Polish immigrants in our neighborhood!
– Monique Kil