As one of the options for the day, UniWorld had arranged for a local baker to take us in hand and show us his shop, teach us to make a sausage rolls and give us an introduction into the local baking world of Heusden.
Heusden was first mentioned in the 11th century and has had a rich history with a number of castles dotting the area (we didn’t get to any sadly). Our day was focused on meeting the local baker, walking from the boat to his shop and learning a bit about what it means to be a baker, businessman and parent in this little spot along the river.
Baking, not in a tent like the British Baking Show, but at the shop of Lucas Vermulen in the village of Heusden was on tap for todays adventure.
Lucas Vermeulen, our guide and baker, is at least a fourth generation baker and purchased his current location 8 or 9 years ago. Originally it was a small shop but over time he has expanded his capabilities and purchased adjacent properties to expand the physical footprint to accommodate his expanding business.
We started off with a cup of coffee and general introduction by Lucas. However, we were only give a few minutes before the instructions began.
First up was to see how he makes a sausage roll.
Admittedly the hard part was already done for us – the dough had been made, allowed to rest and was ready for us to flatten out to accommodate the sausage. So, after about a 5 minute introduction, we were all given 5 dough balls and 5 pieces of sausage with instructions to flatten out the dough, get the sausage inside and roll them – using both hands – so the sausage was fully enclosed and the dough sealed.
After getting these done, they were all collected and taken to the proofing area to allow the dough to rise again and the baking to be completed.
While this was underway off we went for a tour of his facilities. As he has expanded, and purchased adjacent properties, there were slopes, steps, small rooms and hidden corners to go around. To make things more exciting the shop experienced a power outage so the lighting became an issue!
After seeing the stacks of flour; large mixing areas; stacks of completed breads;
walking by the large ovens, we got back to where we started and were given a bag with our finished sausage rolls.
Needless to say, while they were tastier, the presentation wasn’t as good as a professional might have completed. However, all in all a delightful experience.
About a month ago, we were in Saint Remy France where we walked in “Vincent’s Footsteps” to places where he set up his easel and painted various pictures. Saint Remy came after he left the village of Nuenen so it was interesting to see a part of his earlier history. This time we followed our guide to various spots in the village where he did the same thing – over two years producing around 500 paintings, drawings, sketches and watercolors.
Unfortunately none of his works are on view in the village as most are in the museum in Amsterdam. However, the Van Gogh Heritage Centre did a great job of highlighting his time in this village.
Vincent came to Nuenen to stay with his parents, a pastor in the local church. During his time in the Village he produced one of his first major works – the Potato Eaters
and there was information about its creation as part of the museum.
This is a three-story building that illustrates Vincent’s life until the time he left
Nuenen in 1885 and includes a short film illustrating how his first masterpiece, the Potato Eaters came to be made.
Although there are NO actual Van Gogh paintings in the village, statues, viewpoints of paintings and village views are of interest.
The house where Vincent’s parents lived is just across the road from the Vincentre and still houses the minister of the local (protestant) Dutch Reformed Church. In the garden at the rear of the house is where Vincent had a studio and painted most of the works completed in the village.
Other stops along our walk included the park where a three dimensional representation of the Potato Eaters has been created along with a statue of Vincent.
It is clear that this village doesn’t have a lot going for it beyond the history of Vincent’s 2 years living in the place, but it does have the name of Jason’s friend Aardaaple for a street.