Wild Turkeys, Cranberry Sauce, and Owl Magic

For Thanksgiving, assume abundance.

If you live in New England, have you noticed small dogs sound deceptively like wild turkeys? The dog next door sure had me fooled first thing this morning. I mistook his rumbling bark for turkey chortles, and thought of the old joke: They’re almost ready for Thanksgiving!

Then I remembered I am 3,000 miles away from Cape Cod, and there are no bands of wild turkeys wandering the Dutch landscape.


It was almost Thanksgiving, so it seemed like a good time to wander down to the weekly market in our village outside of Amsterdam for some crucial cooking supplies. You can never be sure what you’ll find in the outdoor market, but I went there assuming an abundance of everything I needed.

Especially cranberries.

I find that if I want to attract the thing I need, I first have to assume there is an abundance of that thing available:

“The best thing we can do is ditch the scarcity mentality. Scarcity is the fear of too little. If you apply this fear to yourself, you set yourself up to experience it because you are sending out the energy that calls scarcity back to you.”

me, in Owl Magic:  Your Guide Through Challenging Times


So I entered the market fray full of my own advice and the assumption I’d find lots of cranberries. 

I circled the greengrocer’s stall twice, and there was nary a cranberry to be seen. 

I took a deep breath.

I’d have to ask, so I consulted Google translate for the Dutch word for cranberry and tried it out on the guy selling vegetables. He couldn’t have been nicer, but he had no idea what I wanted.

Finally, I told him the English word is cranberries, and he understood immediately and said he was sure there had been some earlier, and after much to-ing and fro-ing, he tracked down his colleague-in-charge of cranberries, who revealed a stash half-hidden under a large tarp. 

Six bags labeled Ocean Spray had become wet and been deemed unsaleable.  

Just to be sure I understood, I confirmed they had been ruined by water. They had.

And that is how I ended up with several pounds of perfect cranberries for a rock bottom price just in time for Thanksgiving far away in the Netherlands.

Ditching the scarcity mentality works. 

The cranberries are native to my own home, but my conscience is not completely easy. I should probably return to the market to explain cranberries are made for water. The natural habitat of the cranberry is a bog, which is flooded with water to make them float for harvest. 

Especially since once the greengrocer heard I was American he told me how he loves America, and about the time he went to New York.


Flooded cranberry bog by Cape Cod photographer Carole Corcoran

I spent the weekend making cranberry bread and cranberry sauce. My sauce recipe comes from the Peter Hunt Cookbook, a Cape Cod classic found in second-hand bookstores and private bookshelves across the Cape.




You can produce an entire Thanksgiving dinner from this book if you have to.  Here is my classic, super easy Peter Hunt recipe for perfect cranberry sauce.

Just make sure you keep the cranberries dry.







Happy Thanksgiving.





Read more about Cape Cod



Read more about abundance


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Armchair Destination: Inside the Dutch Market

Join me at the Dutch market!

Piles of earthy fall mushrooms, the latest in cauliflower, warm stroop (syrup) waffles from the grill, and generous slices of cheese to taste. Flowers galore, animal supplies, the bicycle guy, fishmongers, and a stand dedicated to fresh French fries. These colorful scenes are typical of the outdoor Dutch weekly market.

Unfortunately, here in the Netherlands COVID numbers are on the rise again which means we, like many others around the world, are spending more time in the house.

What better time to armchair travel?

Join me at the Dutch market!

Beautiful fruit for sale.

The Dutch have a lovely tradition of weekly outdoor markets. There are three markets a week within easy biking distance of our house, and each one is a visual feast with a distinct flavor.

And good deals, because the Dutch love a good deal.

So imagine yourself biking across busy streets with your marketing bags in hand, propping your bike up along with all the other bikes-I swear the bikes start chatting as soon as we leave them, they look like they’re totally hanging out together.

Now, plunge into the market with me!

Disclaimer: The following photos were taken before COVID numbers increased.

Cheese is a crucial part of the Dutch diet.
Cheese counter in action. Delicious.
You can eat these bulbs….
but you’ll want to plant these for next spring!

Raw herring at the Naarden market. Not for the faint of heart.
The fish counter!
Double yolkers are a specialty here.
Buying stroop waffle, the warm, sweet syrup waffle cookies of the Netherlands.
Fall flowers.
Your chariot awaits-or what are they talking about, anyway?

I hope everyone is well wherever you are, and you enjoyed this little trip.

I wonder what you’re cooking?

That sounds like a good story for next week.

Stay safe and happy.

Mary Petiet is the author of Moon Tide: Cape Cod Poems.

Find out more.

Cat Poems

No birds were hurt in the writing of this blog.

Fall winds are blowing in the Netherlands. It rained and hailed last night, and the dark is falling earlier.  The recent equinox of September 22 offered a rare moment of balance in an increasingly unbalanced world, and I for one grabbed it!

Fall is subtle here. It creeps in on foggy cat feet as the trees turn slowly russet and yellow. 

Dutch fall

At the moment, the huge old oak behind my house is welcoming hundreds of swallows as they migrate south to warmer climes. My cat watches them, but his hopes are thwarted by the warning bell he wears around his neck, the unfortunate consequence of hunting too well.

The cat’s name is Pip and he started life in a parking lot in Hyannis on Cape Cod, from which he was rescued as a very small kitten. Later, I brought him home from the SPCA because I needed a good mouser in my old farmhouse. Later still, Pip made the trip to the Netherlands with us and now he is a popular sight in the neighborhood. 

If he could speak, he’d probably tell you the bell on his collar is his biggest problem. 

Pip

Pip’s prowess as a hunter is legendary. I imagine he has quite a reputation in cat circles, so I wrote a short poem about him in Moon Tide called Four Feathers, after the gift he very proudly left me early one morning several falls ago.

Pip’s bell warns the birds effectively of his approach, so I can guarantee no birds were hurt in the writing of this blog.

Read more in Moon Tide: Cape Cod Poems

Bouillabaisse Stories

 

The clan gathers for a summer family reunion. It’s a beautiful beach day, and my grandfather’s second wife is treating us to lunch at the Black Pearl, Newport Rhode Island’s classic seaside dining spot.

 

The Black Pearl puts poetry in the chowder and fries fish to write home about. But our host is rich as Croesus, and also stingy, so everyone is ordering hot dogs and peanut butter sandwiches.

 

When asked what I want, I say the bouillabaisse. I am six years old.

 

Bouillabaisse is associated with the southern French town of Marseille but may have even earlier origins in ancient Greece. The classic fish stew was how fishermen fed themselves by utilizing the shellfish and boney fish they couldn’t sell to restaurants by boiling it in garlic and fennel to make a savory stew at the end of a long day’s fishing.

 

In time, as Marseille became rich with tourists, the simple fisher-fare made its way to resort tables with the addition of saffron and tomatoes.

 

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A bowl of bouillabaisse.

On the French Rivera, the seaside town of Frejus launches fireworks every night. Imagine Van Gogh’s sunflower phase, and you’re pretty much in Frejus. The colors, the sea, and the tastes! At the end of another sunny summer day, my husband and I found our way to a tiny restaurant in Frejus under a train track famous for serving only bouillabaisse.

 

We weren’t sure what we getting into, but the trains turned out to be few and far between, and the bouillabaisse to die for. It was served by an ancient lady in separate courses, first the broth, and then the fish.  Redolent with saffron and filled with cockles I had never eaten before, it was food for the gods.       The ancient lady serves us until we can eat no more.

 

It is my 28th birthday.

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I learned to make bouillabaisse on Cape Cod in an effort to recreate the one we loved so much in Frejus. It turns out Cape Cod has its own recipe made to suit the local fish.  This is one of the few recipes I have the patience to follow, and I do it so I don’t muddle the flavor and waste pounds of seafood and many threads of precious saffron.

 

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I never share recipes, but this is an exception. From the Cape Cod Fish & Seafood Cookbook.

I was pretty much able to recreate the French bouillabaisse we ate so many years ago in Frejus with the help of the recipe and the addition of fresh New England fish.

 

Instead of the strange cockles in the French use, Cape Codders add Littleneck clams. We also add shrimp, but only the carefully deveined tails. We have ample summer tomatoes, and garlic and fennel, and sometimes, when I’m feeling a little wild, I’ve been known to add sweet summer corn to my Bouillabaisse, because why not?

 

This summer, I have found myself stuck in Amsterdam due to COVID-19.  Since it’s my birthday again, and I’m turning 28 again, I spent a recent evening cooking with friends.

 

Right now things in the Netherlands are pretty normal, so it was no problem to haul out my favorite book of Cape Cod fish recipes and get to work.

 

I cook Bouillabaisse about once a summer, and it’s a big undertaking fit for a celebration. This time, I was hoping to bring the Cape Cod recipe to the Netherlands, and one step further away from France while maintaining the vital essence of the Bouillabaisse.

 

The Dutch do not have Littleneck clams.

 

This makes me sad, but I found tiny Venus clams and hoped for the best.

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Venus Clams.

Shrimp come whole in the Netherlands, and since there is a local tradition of boiling and serving shrimp that way, I just chucked them in the pot, with heads and shells intact.

 

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Whole Shrimp.

A firm white fish is essential. Do not add oily fish, it will ruin the dish. I was lucky to find cod on sale.

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Cut the fish into small portions.

The heavy ripe field tomatoes you want for the sauce are hard to come by in this land of efficient greenhouses, so I grabbed the only can of tomatoes I saw in the store that day. The plot thickened with the sauce when I realized they were cherry tomatoes.

 

Have you ever seen a can of cherry tomatoes? I can tell you now they’re actually quite good.

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Canned cherry tomatoes.
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Don’t skimp on the garlic.
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You need good fish stock.
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Adding the fish stock.

Rouille, the classic red sauce that tops a traditional bouillabaisse, is one of the things that keeps the essence of France alive in the recipe. The other is saffron.

 

Rouille is basically mayonnaise with red peppers, lots of garlic, and a shot of tabasco. If bouillabaisse leaves you with a fine garlic hangover, it’s because of the rouille.

 

Use your Cuisinart to make the rouille to ensure you hit peak emulsification.

 

The rouille works with the croutons you make from french bread slices to make the dish taste very, very French.

 

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Adding olive to the rouille sauce.

The trickiest bit is really the timing. After you’ve made your tomato-based sauce in your biggest pot (I use my biggest, orangest Le Creuset) you add the fish according to cooking times. Beware of overcrowding the pot.

 

I learned the hard way that Venus clams open almost the minute they hit the heat, unlike littlenecks, which are tough as nails and will put up an impressive resistance to opening. Think about your timing as you add each fish and learn as you go.

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Bringing the ingredients together.
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Bringing it to the table. Bouillabaisse topped with croutons and rouille.

I ate the whole thing.

 

For more Cape Cod stories check out Moon Tide!

 

Photography by Rikke Dakin Photography.

 

 

 

Jay Gatsby and the Circle of Death

Have you sat in the birthday circle?

Just inside the front door of most Dutch houses, including ours, you typically find another, interior door. If you’re an American and you haven’t been in the Netherlands very long, you’ll probably assume this is the door to the coat closet. Next thing you know, you’re trying to hang your coat up in a tiny powder room with a toilet, a small sink with one cold tap, a radiator turned permanently off, and a wall calendar marking the year’s birthdays.

You can’t hang your coat up here, but you can definitely check out when the next birthday falls.

 Typical Dutch powder room. The new birthday calendar is visible over the toilet. It will last indefinitely as it shows the day but not the year. If your name is on the calendar, it means you’re in. Typical Dutch powder room. The new birthday calendar is visible over the toilet. It will last indefinitely as it shows the day but not the year. If your name is on the calendar, it means you’re in.

Last weekend our youngest turned 13. This was his second birthday in the Netherlands, and he asked me to host a Dutch circle party. Called by some the circle of death, I was surprised and a bit unsure of exactly how it would go.

I also decided it was time to put a birthday calendar in the downstairs powder room.

Instead of having one cake one time for your birthday guests, the idea of the circle party is to have an entire afternoon of cakes for your birthday guests while they sit in a circle chatting. Think of it as cake buffet with a round seating arrangement.

 The cake buffet. The kids baked the whole day before. The cake buffet. The kids baked the whole day before.

As the guests arrived over the course of the afternoon, they congratulated all of us on the birthday because Dutch birthday tradition celebrates the birthday person and his extended family. The birthday boy was slipped many white envelopes to be opened immediately, full of cash.

 It started to look a little like the wedding scene from Goodfellas. It started to look a little like the wedding scene from Goodfellas.

We had set the furniture in an actual circle inside, but as it was not raining, we ended up outside around the patio table. Family, friends, and neighbors, the Dutch birthday is about togetherness in general, and the birthday person specifically.

I’m not sure about the circle of death part. The cat might have an opinion, especially after making himself violently ill after eating most of the cheesecake while we were busy circling outside.

 Everyone thought the cheesecake was especially good. Everyone thought the cheesecake was especially good.

It may also have to do with trouble keeping up with the Dutch conversation for long periods of time, but between pieces of cake there were enough languages spoken to keep everyone interested, except perhaps the birthday boy.

About halfway through the afternoon, I realized he had pulled a Jay Gatsby and wasn’t even at his own party. He’d left with his friends to go kick a soccer ball around the local field. It didn’t matter, the rest of us carried on. We may not have had a champagne fountain, but there was plenty of company, tea, coffee, and beer. And cake, lots of cake.

Mary Petiet is a reporter, writer, and storyteller. Her work is inspired by both her native Cape Cod, where she covers the local farm beat for Edible Cape Cod magazine and her experiences in the Netherlands.  Mary is the author of Minerva’s Owls, (Homebound Publications) finalist in the American Book Fest’s Best Book Awards 2017, religion and spirituality. Minerva’s Owls remembers the divine feminine to re-envision the world.  Mary is currently dividing her time between Cape Cod and the Netherlands.

 www.marypetiet.com                                                   www.facebook.com/MaryPetiet/  

Amsterdam Pilgrims and Giving Thanks

“She quietly presides at harvest feasts and farm to table events, she is with each of us who revere the earth and the ecosystems it engenders.”~Mary Petiet, Minerva’s Owls

In 1608 the English pilgrim William Bradford arrived in Amsterdam and was taken in by the family of William Brewster. The Brewsters were already in the city, and they meant to establish a church more pure than the one they had left behind.

Anyone who grew up in New England is intimate with the Pilgrim story. Plymouth Massachusetts, is America’s home town, Thanksgiving is sacred, and most of us spent our early years at school donning buckled hats and tracing our hands to draw turkeys. We know the Pilgrims, and the lead up to the Thanksgiving feast seems like a good time to follow them through Holland. It’s pretty well known that in Leiden you can walk Pilgrim footsteps, but have you thought of that in Amsterdam?

 If it looks like a Pilgrim... Outside the English Church at Begijnhof 48 If it looks like a Pilgrim… Outside the English Church at Begijnhof 48

I never did. Yet the Pilgrims were here.

Amsterdam center boasts a street full of bookstores, including the English and American book stores, which are like food in a famine to the recent expat. If you manage to find the nearby Waterstones on Kalverstraat, you are very near an ancient building called the English Church. This is where the Pilgrims worshipped.

A modest brick structure, the church is hidden in a beautiful, quiet courtyard accessed by an unassuming passageway. The square is called the Begijnhof, which, in the fashion of most place names, hints at its past. In the fourteenth century it was home to a Catholic lay sisterhood called the Beguines. In 1578, when Amsterdam adopted Calvinist doctrines, the Beguine church was closed until its presentation to Amsterdam’s English speaking Protestants in 1607. These were the Separatist the Pilgrims joined in worship upon their arrival in Amsterdam.

 Pilgrim plaque attached to the facade of the English Church Pilgrim plaque attached to the facade of the English Church

After much wandering around the center of Amsterdam, we found the hidden English Church on a rainy November afternoon. It was Thanksgiving weather, chilly and gray. The church was closed so I was unable to get a picture of the interior stained glass window depicting the pilgrims at prayer on a ship’s deck, with a windmill and billowing sail in the background. We did see plenty of history in the courtyard, which boasts the last wooden house in the city and a Catholic chapel, which was open and redolent of burning wax prayer candles.

 View of the English Church, right, and the entrance to the chapel, white door, left View of the English Church, right, and the entrance to the chapel, white door, left

The Pilgrims did not stay long in Amsterdam. As controversies split the Amsterdam congregation and frustration grew with poverty and poor employment, they decamped to Leiden within nine months of Bradford’s arrival.  Leiden was an industrial center with a Calvinist university,  where Brewster printed religious tracts and Bradford was a member of the serge-weavers’ guild.

Leiden is the Dutch city more associated with the Pilgrims in the American imagination probably because they spent more time there. I visited the Pilgrim house in Leiden years ago on another cold day, this time in early spring, and it seemed far more comfortable than anything I have seen at Plimouth Plantation.

 Exterior of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, dedicated to the Pilgrims who lived in the city from 1608 until their 1620 departure for America.                                    photo credit By Herenld - Own work Exterior of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, dedicated to the Pilgrims who lived in the city from 1608 until their 1620 departure for America.                                    photo credit By Herenld – Own work

Immigration to America ended the Pilgrim experiment in Holland. They left to guarantee their ability to worship freely away from the wars of religion raging through Europe, they left in hope of converting native Americans to their religion because apparently the Dutch weren’t having any, and finally, they left to keep their identities intact.

In my favorite passage from Bradford’s Of Plimouth Plantation, he writes of “the great licentiousness of youth in that country [Holland], and the manifold temptations of the place, [Pilgrim children]were drawn away by evil examples into extravagant and dangerous courses, getting the reins off their necks and departing from their parents.” This expresses the fear Pilgrim parents had of their children becoming completely Dutch, fears justified by the assimilation experienced by families who did not emigrate to America.

 What Pilgrim kids probably got up to. Fun On The Ice by Hendrick Avercamp What Pilgrim kids probably got up to. Fun On The Ice by Hendrick Avercamp

I realized after our trip to the English Chapel that the date was November 9th, the same day Cape Cod was sighted by the Pilgrims from the Mayflower in 1620. This Thanksgiving we are on the Dutch side of the Atlantic, and Bradford’s words about the children going native ring true today as my son tears through the streets on his bike with group of friends, the Dutch language following closely in his wake. Sometimes they burst into the kitchen demanding sandwiches, mostly they are out playing. When it gets cold I expect they’ll go skating.

I’ve cooked a lot of Thanksgiving dinners. If you’ve been at my table, you know who, and you know where. This year is different. This year the fourth Thursday in November will dawn like any other day, which has an authentic sort of Calvinist feel to it, I suppose, as Thanksgiving is not a holiday here. It is, however, a point of interest, and if you are in Amsterdam you can join several expat groups in celebration.

We have chosen to postpone ours to the first weekend of December due to a busy schedule and my daughter’s school exams.  So far I have found four cans of Libby’s pumpkin pie filling and some cranberries, so confidence runs high.

We are grateful and give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Mary Petiet is a reporter, writer and story teller. Her work is frequently inspired by her native Cape Cod, where she covers the local farm beat for Edible Cape Cod magazine. Mary is the author of Minerva’s Owls, (Homebound Publications) finalist in the American Book Fest’s Best Book Awards 2017, religion and spirituality. Minerva’s Owls remembers the divine feminine to reenvision the world.  Mary is currently dividing her time between Cape Cod and The Netherlands.

http://www.marypetiet.comhttps://                                                            http://www.facebook.com/MaryPetiet/