It’s 3am in Amsterdam, you’re drunk and you’re wandering through the notorious Red Light District. We won’t ask why - that’s your business. You’re probably just having a look around, right? It doesn’t matter. The point is, you need something in your belly to soak up all that alcohol, something warm to keep your hunger at bay until morning when the cafes open and you can get that paper-thin pancake with the apples on top, and you need something cheap because you don’t have much money on you right now. Again, we won’t ask why.
So you step into your only salvation, the harsh fluorescent lighting attracting you like a moth to the flame: Febo - a faster than fast-food establishment that features any number of deep fried croquettes, hamburgers and cheeseburgers all sitting behind little glass windows like ladies of the night, shamelessly displaying themselves, teasing you. You inch closer, both nervous and excited at the prospect of what you’re about to do. It’s so bad…and so, so good.
Febo’s can be found all over Amsterdam. It’s an institution as cemented into Dutch life as the canals or poffertjes. You put your money (exact change only) into the display, open the tiny glass door and retrieve the snack of your choice. Is the quality of ingredients questionable? Absolutely. Is it overly salty? You bet it is. Does it likely have large quantities of MSG? It tastes too good not to. Is it worth it? YES.
I mean, she’s happy:
You can’t decide what you appreciate more - the image itself or the fact that it’s presented in a gilded frame. Either way, the dubious edible cylinder you tuck into does everything you expect it to and more: it burns your tongue, tastes vaguely of beef stew and satisfies your hunger.
And that’s when the incongruity of it all hits you - you’re in Holland, home of some of the best cheese, butter and bread you’ll ever have, and here you are scarfing down something packed with preservatives and fried in oil. Not to mention the fact that you’re steps from both the Red Light District and Oude Kerk, an 800 year old church.
And yet somehow, it all makes sense. There’s a balance. Too much of a good thing can be bad, but then again, sometimes something bad is exactly what you need.
I miss the Febo, as much as I miss the cheese, poffertjes, pancakes and coffee. It’s not the sole reason to visit Amsterdam, but a trip there without a visit to a Febo wouldn’t feel complete.