Soup & Stuff | “A little more Jolanda time would only be a good thing”

Good Dutch fare used to be served up on the dot of five in the Snelders household. “Mealtimes weren't a gastronomical affair in our house,” laughs Jolanda Snelders, Managing Director of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. And in her life today food often doesn't play the role it - and what's more, Jolanda herself - deserves. “I don't always allow myself the peace and quiet of proper mealtimes.”

photo Rien Boonstoppel

If there's one person who is clearly enthusiastic about this brand new column, it is Jolanda Snelders. She wants to contribute a green minestrone soup: “Vegetarian, low-calorie, hydrating, colorful, tasty and very healthy” (see the recipe below). As this suggests, health and vitality are close to her heart (as also shown by her work for the ‘Food and Drink’ committee in TU/e's vitality program) - even though she doesn't always manage to provide a shining example.

It would be no bad thing if food, especially healthy food, got a little more attention in the busy life of this forty-five year old, as she herself admits. “My diary is pretty full, I spend much of the day in meetings. So all day long I tend to eat quick snacks I can eat while working. A succession of small amounts: a rice cake makes a healthy start to the day, some fruit - but as the day progresses, a little too much chocolate and the like in the afternoon.”

A proper evening meal has also been known to fall by the wayside. “I am alone, there is no one at home who expects anything of me in that department.” And judging from how often she makes do with a quick bite at the kitchen table while getting through her emails, this is still a tricky one. “Here too, I should be setting a better example, especially given that I'm the MD,” she says guiltily. “The message I give employees is that it is very important to have and maintain a good balance between work and relaxation if you want to be able to perform well long term. In my own career I rose quickly through the ranks, so I don't regret all the time I have invested in work. But as a result, I have developed a somewhat odd lifestyle.”

I do think a healthy lifestyle is important. It's just a matter of doing it

Jolanda Snelders
Managing Director Mechanical Engineering

She is trying to improve her life, she is quick to add. “Because I do think a healthy lifestyle is important. It's just a matter of doing it.” Which meant that for her October was not Stoptober, but 'Startober'. Actually, the exercise wasn't “uber-successful”, she laughingly admits. “But just giving it some headspace, that in itself shows a certain degree of progress. And it is something I try to achieve not with ‘I must’ or ‘I want’, but by making agreements with myself based on ‘I know I deserve a healthy lifestyle’. Right away, that sounds and feels very different and is a much nicer target to pin achievable actions on.”

In any event, she is trying to reduce the pressure she puts on herself. “I have always been an active runner, mostly trail running; last summer one of the events I was going to take part in was a mountain marathon in the Vosges. My preparations were going well and then in May I was knocked out by a heavy cold and I couldn't shake it off. At that stage I thought, ‘Why don't you set these goals aside for a moment? You're already so busy, you don't have to be achieving all the time. A little more Jolanda time now and then would only be a good thing’.”

Now, several months later, she is again freeing up some time for sport. Golf (social) and mostly running (athletic), “You can choose when you run”. Now there's just that attention to food we mentioned. Because this she knows: if she ever takes the time to do it, she will nail it. “I'm really good at making healthy meals.” But there's always chocolate, her ultimate guilty pleasure. Preferably loaded with extras: nuts, the lot. And not just one or two pieces. “No way, no half measures. Go the whole hog.”

Read more about Jolanda below the recipe.


Jolanda's green minestrone soup - available each day of this week in the canteen in Gemini and on some days at other VITAM locations as well.

The nice thing about this recipe is that the soup is easy to make, and that the vegetable and herb ingredients can be swapped for something else to suit your own taste and judgment.

This recipe gets its kick from the cheese rind. So if you have grated a piece of Parmesan cheese at home, don't throw away the rind. Save it for a soup like this one. The rind is full of taste and gives vegetarian soups a bite.

For 4 bowls of soup
Preparation time: less than 30 minutes

You will need
- 1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium-sized leek
- 2 big stalks of celery
- 3 cloves of garlic
- ½ tsp. dried oregano or Italian herb mix
- ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 l chicken stock or, for vegetarian: vegetable/herb stock
- 100 g spinach leaves
- 150 g string beans
- 50 g orzo or pasta (or vermicelli)
- 1 piece (5 cm) Parmesan cheese rind
- 15 g flat leaf parsley
- 35 g green peas
- Topping: grated Parmesan cheese

Slice the leek and celery in half lengthwise and then into narrow rings. Rinse well in a strainer. Top and tail the string beans and remove the strings. Then slice the beans diagonally. Finely chop the garlic and flat leaf parsley.

Place a big soup pan on a medium heat and heat the oil. Add the leek, celery, garlic, oregano, pepper and salt and stir-fry for 4 minutes until the vegetables start to become soft.

Pour on the stock, then the spinach, string beans, pasta and the cheese rind. Turn up the heat and bring everything to the boil. Then turn down the heat and cover the pan. Let it simmer for 8 minutes until the vegetables and pasta are cooked.

Stir the flat leaf parsley and green peas into the soup. Replace the lid and let the soup cook through for another 2 minutes. Remove the cheese rind.

Ladle the soup into 4 bowls and sprinkle each bowl with a spoonful of Parmesan cheese.

& Stuff

Finally, three provocative personal questions from Cursor's glass storage jars, while the chef dots the i's and crosses the culinary t's.

What course would you like to teach and why?
“The idea of being a lecturer doesn't actually appeal to me at all, but if I had to choose a course to teach, it would be hospitality. Until five years ago I was a tour guide on singles travel holidays, alongside my regular job. Being part of the group, all of you creating a great experience, making space for that in your life; that's something I'd like to pass on to other people. Lesson 1, without a doubt: do things from your heart. Enthusiasm is the key to success.”

What do your friends appreciate in you?
“That they know I'll always lend them a sympathetic ear. And that it doesn't take a minute for me to become enthusiastic about doing something together. My neighbor across the street apped just now to ask if I'd like to pop round for a drink this evening. Absolutely, I don't need to think twice. I also like going to the movies, or even better, being outdoors: playing golf, walking in the woods. And I'm pretty good at making time, despite my busy diary - although it will likely mean I'll still be working through my emails at eleven o'clock at night. That's the price you sometimes pay if you want to maintain a certain degree of flexibility."

When did you hold your tongue when you really should have spoken up?
“I couldn't say; I'm not the silent type. I don't wear my heart on my sleeve. I think before I speak - otherwise it's just noise and the message can get lost. Sometimes it is better not to react straight away, but to let the words sink in and to give the other person the same chance. But I don't leave things unsaid for long. That tends to lead to regret; in some way or another it makes it difficult to function well."

About Soup & Stuff

Every three weeks we interview a TU/e student or employee in the kitchen; about food, about their motivations and (pre-)occupations, and any other topic that comes up. The interviewee shares their favorite soup, and in the week that the interview appears, the soup is on sale on our campus in one or more of the canteens run by caterer VITAM. You will find all the interviews and recipes here.

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