Holland's Gouda Cheese Market Will Take You Back To The 14th Century

The Dutch have no shortage of beloved and unique food traditions. Whether it's the celebration of the arrival of the new catch of herring, the poffertjes pancakes enjoyed at Christmas and New Year, or the tulip bulb fries and soups that got the country through World War II, the Dutch are unique among Europeans for their colorful and theatrical culinary traditions (via Euro Tunnel). However, there is one Dutch product enjoyed the world over that maintains a special place in the heart of the nation — gouda cheese.

According to The Cheese Professor, gouda has been produced in the Netherlands since 1184, making it one of the oldest cheeses still in production. Named for the city of Gouda, where the cheese was distributed across the country, multiple varieties of this cheese can be found everywhere from small Dutch farms to towns in Wisconsin. The classic gouda cheeses produced in the surrounding Cheese Valley are notable for their sweetness, creaminess, and overall variety that differs from farm to farm, per Gouda-Kaasstad.Nl. This cheese is perhaps Holland's most well-known and prized export, one that turned the city of Gouda into a cheese trading powerhouse. It's a characteristic the city maintains to this very day with its vibrant summertime cheese market.

The theatre of cheese

The Gouda Cheese Market is nothing if not theatrical. According to Holland.com, the cheese market has been held in Gouda since 1395. Though it has no doubt transformed in scope and purpose over the last few centuries, visiting this market will certainly make you feel as though you've been pulled back through time to the 14th century. Wheel after wheel of beautiful, orange gouda is brought to the town square on horse-drawn carts and stacked in rows before Gouda's city hall. The farmers will initiate trading with a wonderful bit of theatre. Once a price has been agreed upon, the trading farmers will clap each other's hands to confirm the sale.

The Gouda Cheese Market is held Thursdays between the months of April and September, according to Welcome to Gouda. Apart from the field of cheese wheels, vendors of regional produce and crafts also call the market home. Other highlights of the market include the availability of syrup waffles and Gouda's medieval charm. To top off your Dutch experience, choirs, chamber music groups, and a traditional barrel organ rotate in weekly performances for an additional bit of flare. You can also visit the Waag, or Weighing House, built in 1668, and see the old-school scales merchants once used to weigh their blocks of cheese (via Gouda-Kaasstad.Nl).