Thursday, December 3, 2009

The First DutchThanksgiving experience.

I spent weeks preparing for my First Dutch Thanksgiving Feast. My Mom sent me pecans from Texas. Rob sent me corn syrup from Los Angeles. My sister Kristy sent me plastic maple leaves for the table and place cards with Turkey stickers. I saved toilet paper rolls to cover in corn for napkin rings. I searched for a month through every Dutch store for Thanksgiving products and then bought them over a few weeks time (we don't drive and I am NOT carrying large bags of groceries on my bike!) I carved, cleaned, steamed, pureed and jarred 10 pumpkins to make pumpkin pie and soup. I pre-made my pie shells since I could not seem to find them at any store. We special ordered the turkey. Now I was ready....

Or so I thought. I realized the night before, as I was covered in flour from rolling out the pie crust, that this all was going to a bit harder than I had thought. The phone rang and it was my Dutch Sister in law Cathy asking how it was going? I had decided a week before that no matter how I was doing or how stressed or worried I was I would try to appear or sound just like Martha Stewart and say "Oh everything is wonderful, everything is perfect".

So I told her "Oh it is wonderful. Everything is perfect. I am just rolling out my pie crusts"

She seemed impressed and said "You make your own pie crusts?"

"Of course" I replied. "Some people buy frozen but I prefer homemade. Although, I did look for frozen crusts here in Holland but you don't have them so..."

"Oh we have them" she said "of course we do"

"No, no you don't" I shot back "I looked in the frozen section and the dairy section there were none"

"Oh, no, that is not the section they are sold in" she kind of giggled. "We sell them"

And that is when it started... a little twitch. In the lower right hand corner of my right eye.

"Well, well ...I prefer homemade pie crusts.. Anyway it's all going to be wonderful. Everything so far is perfect so I'll see you tomorrow!"

I started to make the pumpkin filling and realized a few other things. APPARENTLY when using real pureed pumpkin you cannot use the pumpkin pie recipe from a Libby's Pumpkin Can. Around this same time I discovered that I only had the use of metric measuring cups and all my recipes were in... the other... measuring system. The American measuring system. Whatever it is called. Also around this time I discovered I only have one pie pan, which I had brought from the States. But I need to make two pies. I HAD to make Pumpkin Pie and I HAD to make Pecan Pie. Apparently the Dutch just don't use pie pans. They just don't! TRUST ME! They DON'T! (and if any of you are reading this in Holland PLEASE do not write me and tell me you know where I can get one. I don't need to hear that now) I did run out to three stores to try to find tin pie pans and I found nothing. I did found one pyrex like pan at the Bijenkorf (Dutch Version of Macy's) but it cost something like twenty five Euro (around thirty eight dollars) I was NOT making a forty dollar pecan pie! So I decided to squish the dough into a tart pan and fiddle with all the measurements.

It was at this time that I decided the new theme for my Thanksgiving Feast was ...Rustic! (What choice did I have)

My eye was in full twitch now. I was in the kitchen with pans pulled out everywhere, splatters of pureed pumpkin here and there, one flour covered finger applying pressure on my twitch and the other hand on my laptop trying to convert 375 degrees fahrenheit into celsius AND Google what a cup converts to in grams. To make matters worse my Asian Carnation milk can was in Chinese or Islamic or something and I had no idea where it said many grams the can was (it was a weird shaped can) and the Libby's can recipe only says add one can...Aghhhh! At one point I checked out Paula Dean's Pumpkin pie recipe on-line but she added all this extra butter and stuff like cream cheese! (Damn Paula, can't you just make a normal pie?) The Food Channels Barefoot Contessa Pumpkin Pie recipe was worse and involved me going out to the forest to find wild Nutmeg.....Aghhhh! So I chose to stick with Libby's!

Around this time Jur called from work and I told him "I'm fine! everything is perfect! Wonderful Although I can't talk right now!"

I started to think about home. You know Thanksgiving was always sort of a communal thing. The very first Thanksgiving the Indians and the Pilgrims all cooked things and then brought them to the table. Growing up my Mom and her Sisters divided up the dishes. The last few years Thanksgiving with my friends was sort of potluck kind of thing. What the hell was I thinking cooking Turkey, Gravy, Cranberries, Stuffing, Green Bean Casserole, Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie and fresh whipped cream all by myself? (FYI there was supposed to be sweet potatoes but apparently what I bought at the Asian market that I thought looked like sweet potatoes turned out to be some sort of sticky green fruit when I peeled it)

I almost fell apart at this time....but then I remembered.....The British are Coming...The British are coming.... The one saving grace I had on my side was that John, Jur's friend, a "Gentleman" from England was coming tonight. He had told me over the phone that he loved the Thanksgivings he had when he lived in the States and would so excited if he could come. He also told me he would love to help me with the Thanksgiving cooking. He was going to cook the stuffing and the green bean casserole. Although I was hesitant about the stuffing. I love stuffing. Stuffing is so important. Now out of stress I had decided that he was also cooking the Brussels sprouts.

Thank God I got Jur to make the cranberries before he left for work. I trusted him with that. One good cooking thing Dutch do well is boil fruit with sugar.

The doorbell rang and it was John. "John, thank God you're here. Okay I am behind! Get in here now! Pie drama, fill you in later. Okay here is your list. Stick to it! By the way you're making the Brussels sprouts too. Oh and our theme is now rustic AND what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen. I will tell ONLY you that I am stressed, only you, but if anyone asks we are fine. Everything is wonderful, got it? Oh and if you see me touching my eye it is cause I am twitching"

"Hello Dear, sure, fine whatever" John said "I just need a vodka 7-up first! I cook much better when I'm drinking, shall I make you one?"

Okay here is the thing that I have learned...The English like to drink. John can drink. All I can say was that the next day and a half of cooking with John was like being in the kitchen with Dudley Moore from the movie Arthur. In fact John's last name is MOORE!

"John please don't drink! Please. We have no time. I need you to focus. You need to start chopping the vegetables for your stuffing and I do not want you handling a knife drunk."

"Well, no worries, I don't chop my vegetables for my stuffing, I shred everything with my hands and, oh, I need lots of butter (The English drink and use lot's of butter) oh and ice lot's of ice for my cocktails" he said.

I didn't have time to explain to him that the Dutch have no ice. It is a precious commodity.

My twitch was getting worse and worse and now we're having English shredded stuffing. The stuffing is ruined! Stuffing is so important.

I eventually had a cocktail and resigned myself to just hoping for the best.

The next morning I woke up and headed straight to the kitchen only to find John there smoking a cigarette and pouring a vodka 7-up in a Kilt! Had he even gone to sleep I wondered? There was no time. The Turkey had to go in the oven! I was sort of confused about the Celsius vs Fahrenheit cooking time of a turkey but I had to hope for the best. There was also the issue that the Turkey we ordered was straight from a farm and seemed to still have a few random feathers on it but John, my drunk Sous Chef, assured me that no one would notice and they would probably burn off. This situation never happens with a good ole Butterball Turkey.

Everything was in full swing now. Jur was running around creating his Dutch Cornucopia center piece. We fought briefly over the Turkey place cards and toilet paper rolls but reached a compromise. John went out a few more times to the store for more Vodka. Jur was using valuable counter space to assemble his stinky Dutch cheese platter. Eventually the Dutch Pilgrim Guests started to arrive. I was still twitching. Every time the doorbell rang my lip joined in on the twitch too. They all seemed to head straight to the kitchen and I would greet them and say everything is fine. John would be behind me with a cigarette, a spatula, his vodka and often on the floor picking food up that he had dropped. I would hear him mumble from down there "Yeah, fine Wonderful whatever"

It was around this time that I started to feel a bit dizzy. "Please Sjan, Ad, Wibrand, Frits, Cathy, Edward ALL Dutch people get out the kitchen. Everything is wonderful. Please go out to the living room and read the history of Thanksgiving I printed off for you. Dinner will be ready in ten minutes. Danku!"

John slurs from behind me "Wonderful."

Forty five minutes later dinner was ready. I was a bit uncertain about whether the Turkey was cooked enough. During the whole meal I worried that I might give them all trichinosis poisoning. Could you imagine if they all got sick from their first Thanksgiving Turkey? Eight Dutch killed by American made Turkey. To be honest I was too tired to be that worried. I was exhausted. In fact I think my twitch went away from exhaustion.

One touching moment was at the beginning of the meal when I explained that we were to go around the table and say what we are thankful for. I said I was thankful for meeting all of them. For them coming and for my family back home, good health and good times and of course Turkey!

John said he was thankful that everything is wonderful and for the Winkel (convenience store) being so close and for it selling his favorite Vodka.

And then it was the Dutch guests turn....As they made their way around the table they said things like how they loved each other and how they were thankful to be so close to each other after all these years and they are so thankful to be together today, they grabbed each others hands and THEN before I could even sip my wine they ALL started crying. REALLY! Even my sixteen year old Dutch nephew Wibrand was crying. Full on tears!

I was stunned. Even drunk John stopped drinking for a minute.

No no no no nooooo I thought. You're not supposed to cry! You're supposed to say things like...I am thankful for good wine or mashed potatoes! I was too tired to say anything to break the ice so I just got up and got all the Dutch Pilgrims a box of tissues and then softly said "Well, okay then, enjoy!" All I kept thinking was I am so tired, my guests are crying, I hope I don't poison them, please John don't pass out, and that I will NEVER do this again.

Anyway, everything looked good (candle light helped with that). Everything tasted pretty good too (wine helped with that). No one got sick. Ad (pronounced Ot) gets the prize for Best Dutch Guest. He ate everything on his plate, didn't cry, had seconds and asked for food to take home! All in all the Dutch Thanksgiving was nice. A bit emotional, exhausting, stressful but it was well received.

BUT's Christmas time! I am SOOOO excited. I invited all of them over again for a Traditional American Christmas Dinner (except John of course). Maybe I will even try to make a chocolate Yule Log or my own Honey baked ham. Or tamales! I can try to make tamales! They can't be that hard, right?


  1. If you find a good hunk of ham, you have to tell me your source. I miss ham! The thin sliced stuff just isn't enough! Is there a certain Dutch name for it that I need to know to ask at the butcher's?

    I'm glad your dinner turned out well, twitching and crying be damned! ;)

  2. Brilliant! I almost spilled my drink laughing!

  3. Ken, I am so proud of you!
    I think this blog was by far my most favorite. I am thankful that Jur is so patient with you and hasn't sent you back to the States in a straight-jacket and attached to your bike.
    Love you, miss you and good luck with finding dried corn husks in Holland.
    besos querido amigo.

  4. Kenny, this was great! I think John should be invited back into the kitchen! It sounds like he helped you a lot while bringing a bit of humor to the kitchen! I vote no on the tamales...aren't they hard enough to make in the States? How will you ever find corn husks in Holland?

  5. OMG! That is such a hilarious story. I can picture a bunch of Dutch people crying over their Thanksgiving meal. HA!!!

    I totally understand the stress that you went through. I had to cook for me, my bf and five of his family members. He cooked a sweet potato casserole, some filo triangles and the pumpkin pie but I was stuck with the rest: 15lb turkey, stuffing, garlic mashed potatos, green bean casserole, creamed spinach, corn, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, corn bread, mac & cheese (you KNOW it!), and appetizers all while having to be subjected to his annoyingly loud and obnoxious brother-in-law talking to the television and making a comment about EVERY little thing. STRESS!!!!

    I'm happy your meal was successful and good luck with Christmas, ESPECIALLY if you're going to try to cook Mexican food in Holland. lol

  6. AWW Ken Hardy!! The Dutch are very lucky to have you! Do they know you are on loan over there?!? They don't get to keep you forever. Afterall- who's gonna help me run the Taco truck in East LA?!?!?! I loved that the Dutch cried!!It's good to have a good cry> ANd all provided for by Ken Hardy. I think for Xmas you should make traditional Enchiladas baby!!!

  7. well ive been here holland for 3 months and we ended up not celebrating Thanksgiving which i really missed, wish i knew you i could have helped with your dinner, im a pretty great cook if i say so myself lol. Who is cooking Kerstdag, Hopefully you dont pass out if you are, goodluck.