I swore up and down that I would never try it. They were disgusting, definitely not sanitary and certainly would be against all of my labour ideals.
But eventually, I caved. I bought, and consumed, something from a Febo.
Pictured above is a ‘muur’, literally a ‘wall’, but to Amsterdam tourists it is only known as one thing: Febo. They’re scattered throughout the Dutch capital and around the country through various aliases. But they’re all virtually the same thing; a hot food vending machine.
The funny thing about Febos is that they look like the most vile, Health Department-inducing tourist traps. However, most tourists are too repulsed or intimidated to go use them at all. I was one such person.
But Paul was adament. I had to try the Febo. They were apparently as Dutch as windmills and bikes. Not wanting to be ripped off by the ‘touristy’ Febos (if there is a such thing), Paul marched me down past a good two or three Febos until he got to one which met his approval.
Clutching my coins (and if I didn’t have any, there’s always a cash changing machine) I gazed at the selection before me. Hamburgers, kroket, frikandel and the decidedly gross kaassoufle (cheese souffle) seemed to all sit up a little straighter. How long had they been in there, I wondered. Now was not the time to wonder, however. Quickly I chose what I knew, a kroket. I reckoned that it was so deep fried and manufactured that surely any potential germs would have suffered a short and painless death hours ago.
In went the coins and I pulled the little window open, grabbing my kroket on a little paper plate. It felt warm. It looked like a kroket should look. Perhaps I wouldn’t need to have my health insurance number on standby.
Paul looked at me expectantly, already halfway through his hamburger. The first bite was like one of those chips you search for at the fish ‘n chip shop; the ones with no potato and are simply deep fried batter. My heart pulpitated in response.
My second bite delivered kroket content. Krokets, for the uninitiated, are filled with mystery meat, in a similar way to Australians not knowing the filling of a dim sim. At a pinch, I’d call them similar to the filling of a Chiko Roll. This time, though, I wasn’t too interested in dissecting my kroket. I just wanted it done, experience ticked off.
The kroket wasn’t hot, it wasn’t cold. It hung in that type of culinary purgatory; one of those foods that could have been intended to be served cold but had been sitting in the sun, or, in this case, had been sitting in a miniature bain-marie for the better part of the last decade.
Somehow, though, it had done what it needed to do. Febos are placed at highly strategic locations, either close to pubs and coffee shops for the drunk or stoner with the munchies, or at train stations to tide you over until dinner at home. And I lived to tell the tale.