bacon, pork, fat Iconspeaker_3
[het spek]

It depends on the context whether the "spek" is smoked/salted (bacon), fresh (pork meat containing a lot of fat) or fat (humans). In case of the latter we usually say "vet", but "spek" is used colloquially. A common compound – that you often hear on the traffic news this winter – is "spekglad" (extremely slippery). Check out the expressions for some common idiom.

– "Ik heb zin in pannenkoeken." – "Ik ook, het liefst eentje met spek." 
("I feel like having pancakes." – "Me too, preferably one with bacon.")

– "Twee pannenkoeken met spek alstublieft!" – "Het spijt me meneer, maar de het spek is op." 
("Two pancakes with bacon please!" – "I’m sorry sir, but we ran out of bacon.")

– "Pas op als je met de auto naar het werk gaat, want de wegen kunnen spekglad zijn." 
("Be careful when taking the car to work, because the roads can be extremely slippery.")

– "Zal ik spekjes door de pasta doen?" – "Doe maar niet, volgens mij zijn de gasten vegetarisch." 
("Shall I put bacon in the pasta?" – "(You’d) better not, I think the guests are vegetarian." Note that "spekjes" are small bits of "spek".)

– "De kat op het spek binden": to leave/set the fox to watch the
trust the cat to keep the
. This is used to say that you shouldn’t provoke/elicit/stimulate something.

– "Je moet de kat niet op het spek binden dus we kopen geen snoep in de supermarkt." – "Jammer hoor, ik vind dat afvallen maar niks!"
("We shouldn’t tempt ourselves so we are not buying any candy in the supermarket." – "That’s just too bad, I don’t like the whole losing weight thing one bit!")

– "Voor spek en bonen meedoen": to participate just for show, to count for nothing. This is used when you want to participate but not compete.

– "Is Sam niet een beetje te klein voor volleybal?" – "Ach, het gaat om de lol, hij doet mee voor spek en bonen."
("Isn’t Sam a bit too little to play volleybal?" – "Oh well, it’s about having fun, he participates just for show.")

– "Spekkoper zijn": to strike it lucky, to cash in. Used when somebody made a good deal (financially, but also in general). You can also just call somebody a "spekkoper" (lit. "bacon/pork buyer").

– "Michiel heeft 20.000 euro van de vraagprijs af kunnen krijgen!" – "Zo hé, wat een spekkoper!"
("Michiel was able to knock off 20.000 euro of the asking price!" – "Wow, what a lucky guy!")

Related words:
– Spekken: to lard [verb] [spekte, gespekt].
– Spekje/spekkie: popular with children, this is a bit like marshmallow (often diamond shaped) [noun] [het spekje/kie, de spekjes/kies].

– "Als je je goed gedraagt, dan krijg je straks een spekje."
("If you behave well, I’ll give you a ‘spekje’ later.")

– Ham: ham [noun] [de ham, de hammen].
– Varken: pig, pork [noun] [het varken, de varkens]. "Varken" is used both for the animal and the meat.

5 thoughts on “Spek

  1. Thanks for this (and all your other great posts), but what about spek koekjes? They’re always in the butchers or the meat section of the supermarket, but I’ve been told they contain no meat. Never been brave enough to try one.

  2. Hi Karl – are you referring to ‘spekkoek’; the layered cake? This cake dates back to colonial times in the Dutch Indies. I never really wondered about the name until now, and apparently people thought that the bi-coloured layered structure looked similar to bacon. I don’t know why really when you check out the picture with the Wikipedia article:

  3. Hey Sander. One small thing that AL-WA-YS bothers me in Dutch is the use of DE and HET words. In the daily life, very very often HET words become DE. Here an example from your Spek
    “Twee pannenkoeken met spek alstublieft!” – “Het spijt me meneer, maar DE spek is op.”
    (“Two pancakes with bacon please!” – “I’m sorry sir, but we ran out of bacon.”)
    Which HET words may I transform into DE words in my daily life and still sounds like everybody else?
    thanks. Cheers

  4. Hi Maia!
    An excellent question! First of all let me say thank you for spotting ‘DE spek’ because really it should be ‘het spek’ and it is in fact a mistake that I will correct.
    However, I think you are right when you say that certain ‘het’-words turn into ‘de’-words in daily life.
    To know when a word is ‘het’ or ‘de’ in Dutch is difficult because there are only a few rules and these are not very useful (in German there are three definite articles but at least the rules are clear).
    So sometimes it can happen that the incorrect use of an article becomes accepted just because many people say it, or just because it sounds right (which is what I thought when writing ‘de spek’).
    Note that some words can be both ‘de’ or ‘het’ without changing the meaning though.
    It would be interesting if you could provide a few examples of your observation.

  5. Dear Maia and everyone,
    you can use the website http://woordenlijst.org/ to check whether a noun is de- and/or het-type from a large set of words. And if you’re after some more or less foolproof rules, there’re some tips from the on-line grammar (de Elektronische Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst) at http://www.let.ru.nl/ans/e-ans/03/03/body.html. Rules apply only when they apply, so there’s a lot that escapes them — every little helps though. Those sites are connected to the Nederlandse Taalunie, so they seem pretty reliable. Enjoy!

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