26 November 2012

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Dutch (Kind of...)

Now that Thanksgiving and the horror that is Black Friday have past, we can go over our first Thanksgiving experience abroad. Until yesterday's weekly bier post, we've been quiet on the blog while we were preparing for a Thanksgiving potluck hosted at our home this past Saturday. Thanksgiving Day was just another regular day for us, but Poppa treated Little Man to a movie with dinner while I attended a meeting. The rest of the week was a wicked busy culmination of all things to get ready for our big day on Saturday. If you ever find yourself celebrating an American Thanksgiving in Dutch (or anywhere abroad), you can follow these easy steps to prepare for your revised holiday traditions.

Firstly, send an invitation out to colleagues. Some of Poppa's colleagues are American and have experienced potlucks before - it's a very American kind of tradition for gatherings. For our Dutch friends, a brief explanation of a potluck was provided: a gathering where each person/couple contributes a dish and/or a gathering where everyone provides a dish and you take your chances with the food.

Next, put the finishing touches on the house. There were a handful of things that we'd left to linger since our things from the States were delivered - some things that hadn't found a place yet (and were promptly shoved in a cabinet for a fun surprise later), but mostly we had pictures still sitting on the floor instead of hanging from the walls. Our walls are some sort of fire-rated concrete, making it impossible to hang things without a power drill and difficult at best to hang things with a power drill. Throw in the fact that I managed to kill our first drill in the middle of trying to get one of our larger picture frames hung, and I was ready to start using my own head to get the nails and screws in the walls. But once our new, shinier, more powerful drill was purchased, we managed to get everything up and looking like we've actually been living here for 4 months.

Clean the house. This felt like a bigger task that it should have. It comes from allowing things to slowly build up over time. As huisvrouw extraordinaire I've decided that my superpowers lay more with baking and crafting that actually keeping house. So began the week-long mad dash to keep the house looking good in time for Saturday.

"Borrowed" from a friend's Pinterest posting.

Get your cooking in order. We promised some typical American Thanksgiving foods: Turkey, mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, green bean salad, and good ol' apple pie. We managed to find kalkoenfilet (turkey breast - though they were more like tenderloins), which we baked in the convection oven and grilled. After a previous failed attempt at roasting a whole chicken in the convection oven we determined the tenderloins would be much easier - and (thankfully), we were right. The mashed potatoes were no problem since we've mastered the dish already. The bread stuffing took a little more ingenuity since we were starting from scratch, and generally worked out alright if a little on the dry side. Our fellow American co-host supplied an excellent green bean salad and carrot salad. The apple pie came out pretty well but had a nice burn on one side, thanks to our wonderful convection oven, but I suppose it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without lamenting that the pie didn't look like Martha Stewart Magazine image.

Decorate. Our decorations for our Thanksgiving celebration actually had a bit of forethought instead of my usual, "Oh, crap! We need a tablecloth... or something!" style of holiday decoration. I initially came across this cute acorn idea on Pinterest. With a lot of oak trees in our area and previous success with acorn projects, we were able to take Little Man on an "acorn hunt" and collect more acorns than anyone has any business taking out of the woods. With a little spray paint and a few cheap glasses leftover from another project, voila! Pretty red acorns "artfully" arranged on the table. To round it off, I found some beautiful Gerber daisies in red and orange/yellow - and we actually had a neat, preplanned and put-together centerpiece rather than my usual slap-dash. Ta-da!

A for-real planned centerpiece!
Let the fun begin! We had several people come and share our holiday with us. Delicious traditional dishes from the US (deviled eggs), Holland (pickled herring), Italy (tiramisu), India (curry), and elsewhere were provided and devoured. Adults talked and laughed, children ran around and giggled, and all had a good time. The Little Man especially enjoyed himself and declared, "All these people stay at my house!" as the evening wound down.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening. And best yet - we have at least 10 servings of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes left - just like Thanksgiving back home.

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