It’s that time of year: Thanksgiving is over, and we’re getting ready for Christmas. For Americans, that seems pretty normal, but since we’ve lived in The Netherlands, Sinterklaas is also part of this time of the year. Sinterklaas is Saint Nicholas, and he’s the one who brings presents to children in The Netherlands. They do it on his birthday. Well, his birthday is actually December 6, but they give him that day to head back to Spain. They actually do the presents on pakjesavond (presents night), December 5. If you’re reading this, and you’ve never heard of Sinterklaas, it might all sound strange to you, but it’s become a way of life for us.
We decided to have a small Sinterklaas party, but because of school and work here in the States, we thought that we’d do it on the Saint’s actual birthday. We invited Mike’s family and some missionary kids who grew up in The Netherlands. (Unfortunately, they weren’t able to come because of bad weather.) I had at first thought that we could do suprises, which is a gift you do for people, but most times, the actual gift is in the amazing wrapping. Say that you like music; your suprise might be in the shape of a piano. Your gift would be inside. The person who gives it to you also writes a poem about you, and it often makes a little fun of you. We decided that it might be a bit much to ask everyone (who has never done this) to come up with something. So, Mike and I got something for Grace. Mike took care of the packaging, making a unicorn out of it, and I wrote the poem. This way, our family could somewhat see what it was like.
I thought that a great way to experience the entire Sinterklaas experience would be to have a Dutch meal. Mike, Grace and I came up with the menu. The first thing that Grace said was PANNENKOEK! I didn’t want to have to be at the stove the entire time making pancakes, so we came up with some other Dutch goodies. I first thought that erwtensoep would be perfect. It’s one of the most “Dutch” things I could think of: split pea soup with other veggies in it. Since I like vegetables a lot, it’s a winner in my book. I had to search around for a while here to find celery root, but it made it into the pot too. It’s not the most visually appealing soup, and the longer it sits, the thicker it becomes. So, by the end of the night, I had a good erwtensoep by Dutch standards: my spoon would stand straight up inside it.
Erwtensoup/split pea soup
I knew that wouldn’t be enough to feed the bunch, so we also had patat (French fries – this was to help the kids out), chicken with peanut butter sauce and hotspot. It’s mashed potatoes, carrots and union. It’s eaten in Leiden on one of their holidays.
We finished our meal off with appeltaart and kruidnoten. I don’t know how to describe kruidnoten to Americans except to say that they’re small, crunchy spice cookies. We also had the chocolate covered variety. Since I have very little restraint when it comes to those, I definitely wanted to serve them to everyone so that I would get them out of my house! Our nephews were also really happy to see stroopwaffels.
So, even though the Sint didn’t actually make it to Texas, we had a little of his spirit around. It was a great time showing our family in America a little of what life is like in The Netherlands. One of my nephews said, “So, is it strange to make Dutch food here in America for us?” I told him that it’s nice to show them Dutch food, and that when we’re in The Netherlands, the meal that people usually ask me to make to show them our food from America is fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy. Our house just happens to have the best of both worlds – no matter where we are.