#DutchScoop

Jay Gatsby and the Circle of Death

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/  

Shopping the Dutch Market

Today is one of our first gray days, and I decided to spend part of it in our local market surrounded by autumnal offerings. In the month we’ve been back in the Netherlands, the sun and sea of summer has receded like our tans and the tide, and fall has arrived. As falls go, it’s been a gentle one. Instead of the strong colors, crisp temperatures, and possible n’or easters of New England, there has been beautiful sunny weather as the trees turn russet to yellow to brown.

The local market comes to Bussum, where we live just outside of Amsterdam, every Thursday. It is reminiscent of the farmer’s markets on Cape Cod, except I don’t think we are actually buying directly from the growers and producers here. Instead, we seem to be buying through middlemen. It’s a big outdoor shopping extravaganza where you can find pretty much everything imaginable, including lots of beautiful fall color.

As a means of possible distraction from the current news debacle, I though I’d walk you through the sights of the Bussum market. There are sounds here as well, such as vendors shouting out their offerings, the murmur of commerce, and the ding of bicycle bells. There are also the smells of chicken cooking, and flowers, and spicy warm sweet syrup. The market engages all the senses.

Flowers are big here. That’s bittersweet you see below selling for 3,50 euro a packet! I didn’t mention how it is taking over the yards and woods of the Cape as a sort of invasive species. Even so, it’s a favorite of mine.

Hardy fall mums and roses show their russet hues. We bought some delicate fall tulips.

I probably talk about cheese too often, but it really is a way of life here. We made our way through piles of it, tasted enough not to need lunch, and brought home a beautiful round of blue sadly not pictured here. This is farm cheese, with an image of the cows in the background. The cheese monger’s Dutch was so fast we quickly changed to English. We will slice it thinly and eat it on buttered bread.

My egg lady has a new table! You can ask for a box of ten double-yolkers here, and get them. They have beautiful bright orange yolks.

I think the cauliflower market is flooded. They’re giving it away these days…

Stroopwafels to satisfy the sweet tooth. They are thin waffles filled with syrup made on the spot as you order. The pan to the right holds the syrup and the griddle to the left is heating them. They are gooey, warm, and delicious.

I ran into this guy at the fish counter. I almost brought him home.

I always snag some of this beautiful French garlic.

I saved my favorite for last. We stopped at the supermarket on the way home and ran into the local jack o’lanterns. Even so, our house is still the only one on the street with a pumpkin on the front step.

 

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/  

Wildlife Crossing

Dutch roads are busy and the driving is fast. At the same time, you almost never see any roadkill. What you do see are wide bridges spanning the motorway covered in trees and wildflowers. The first time I saw one I had no idea what to make of it. The greenery seemed out of place on a highway overpass, but that is the nature of the Dutch ecoduct, the wildlife crossing which allows animals access to fragmented habitats while avoiding lethal contact with cars. What’s not to love about a country that protects is animals to this extent?

 Driving under the ecoduct. Note the trees above the road. The path flanking the road is for bikes, so they are also safe. (Naturrbrug Zanderij Crailo, one of our local ecoducts.)  Photo Credit: Door M.Minderhoud - Eigen werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=872710 Driving under the ecoduct. Note the trees above the road. The path flanking the road is for bikes, so they are also safe. (Naturrbrug Zanderij Crailo, one of our local ecoducts.)  Photo Credit: Door M.Minderhoud – Eigen werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=872710

The Netherlands boasts over 600 tunnels and overpasses to protect many species such as the European Badger,  wild boar, and deer. There are two ecoducts in my neighborhood, and one of them is the largest in the Netherlands and the longest in the world. The Naturrbrug Zanderij Crailo is 800 meters long and 50 meters wide. Finished in 2006, it spans a highway, a railway, a river, a sports complex, and a golf course. It is also accessible to bikers and pedestrians, and the other day I walked its length with my writer friend Clarissa Gosling.

 Clari leading the charge over the ecoduct.  Clari leading the charge over the ecoduct.

We started out early before the day’s heat built. It has been incredibly hot and sunny here for a good long stretch, but we earned it over the winter, when it rained everyday. Additionally, the summer sun does does not set until after 10:00, which we also earned over the endlessly gray winter.

 To get to the ecoduct, we first crossed the heath. To get to the ecoduct, we first crossed the heath.  Access to the ecoduct is through a gate designed to keep the local herds of cattle wandering the heath from crossing the bridge. The path leads on. Access to the ecoduct is through a gate designed to keep the local herds of cattle wandering the heath from crossing the bridge. The path leads on.  Crossing the ecoduct. This path goes over the motorway, the railway, a sports complex, a river, and a golfcourse. We shared it with bikers. Note the fencing to the right to make sure animals stay safe. Crossing the ecoduct. This path goes over the motorway, the railway, a sports complex, a river, and a golfcourse. We shared it with bikers. Note the fencing to the right to make sure animals stay safe.  Welcoming shade on the other side of the ecoduct. Welcoming shade on the other side of the ecoduct.

There is much hope in the concept of the ecoduct as an example of how conservation and progress can work together. It shows human endeavor does not have to mean continued habitat destruction, and that corporate interest does not have to lead to extinction. Walking the ecoduct felt like a journey into a more balanced world, a world where the interests of all, including nature and animals, drivers, golfers, train passengers, pedestrians, and bikers, were considered in such a way as to make it possible for all to flourish. Imagine what the US could do if this kind of thinking could be supported by political will.

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/  

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

In 1554 the Sultan of Turkey sent the first tulip bulbs to Vienna. From there they made their way to Amsterdam.

We thought that sounded pretty exotic, so we went to the Keukenhof a few weeks ago to see the blooming tulips in all their riotous, colorful splendor.

The Keukenhof, known as the Garden of Europe, is only open a few weeks a year when the bulbs blossom.  In the fifteenth century, Countess Jacoba van Beieren grew produce there in the Teylingen Castle Garden, the area Keukenhof garden would later occupy.

Because of the distance, it made sense to take the car, even though we ended up sitting in traffic and wishing for our trusty bikes. In 2017 approximately 1.4 million people visited the Keukenhof. Approaching with the car windows open, we suddenly smelled the salt air of the ocean. Then we were engulfed in a sea of color.

 A sea of red spotted outside the Keukenhof. A sea of red spotted outside the Keukenhof.

The Dutch had never seen tulips before their introduction to the Netherlands via Vienna in the sixteenth century. In their uniqueness, tulips quickly became the hot item to have.

Entering Keukenhof we could see the shape of the English garden style outlined there in the 1800’s. It was awash with color and in some places reminiscent of Monet’s Giverny. We drank in the color with our eyes, but we there to look, not to acquire.

 Giverny's Dutch cousin? Giverny’s Dutch cousin?

The Dutch have a pragmatic business sense, which must have helped fuel what we now think of as the first financial bubble, Tulipmania. As the bulbs were bred to more and more exotic colors, they were traded for more and more inflated prices. I’m not much of an economist, but in the end, a large futures market featuring tulips apparently crashed when buyers, who were selling bulbs up to ten times a day, failed to arrive at markets. This may or may not have been a consequence of an outbreak of Bubonic plague.

The air at the Keukenhof was sweet and the sun was warm, and while the mania for buying and selling bulbs has certainly receded, a passion for seeing then in bloom has remained. The garden was bright with flowers and a truly international crowd of people, and at that moment, it seemed this is how the world should be.

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/  

Marching for Our Lives in Amsterdam

Two Saturdays ago it got political. It just took me a little longer to write about it than I’d have liked.

Two Saturdays ago we went out into the gray afternoon to join close to 1,000 people gathered on Amsterdam’s Museumplein. Many were children. All stood in solidarity with American teenagers who wish to attend school without being shot.

 We are in the crowd. Photo credit James Petermeier. We are in the crowd. Photo credit James Petermeier.

Pictures of the Amsterdam protest have appeared on the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post. One picture, unsharable due to copywrite, clearly shows my husband chanting no to guns as we joined voices globally in support of the marchers at home.

I hope Washington heard us.

 The protest gathered in front of the US Embassy, which was shuttered for the weekend. The protest gathered in front of the US Embassy, which was shuttered for the weekend.

There were posters, a banner, singing, and chanting. The crowd was goodnatured. While it felt serious because it was serious, the action of getting involved was also tremendously positive.

In a poignant moment, a European teenager read from the United States Declaration of Independence, outlining our unalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. This was eery to hear in a foreign accent in a foreign city as he insisted the threat of gun violence deterred these most basic rights. I wasn’t tall enough to see him over the crowd, but his voice summoned the flawed but hopeful humanism of America’s inception, written by hands from many nations, calling us back to that early promise.

 The kids ended up on Dutch TV. The kids ended up on Dutch TV.

My kids said it best in an impromptu interview by Dutch TV. They explained their protest in terms of raising international awareness, which they hoped could lead to a solution, and the very simple reason that they wished to support their school friends still at home.

In 1776, the Amercian founding fathers were more accurately the founding kids. Alexander Hamilton was 21 years old, James Monore was 18, Aron Burr was 20, and Nathan Hale was 21. Kids were at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the ’60’s, and today they are standing up again, this time to demand their safety.

 Photo credit James Petermeier Photo credit James Petermeier

Having come of age in the era of school lockdowns and massacres, the kids remind us that this is not normal.

They call on all the adults in Congress elected to represent us to pass legislation that will protect and save children from gun violence.

They demand the change grownups can’t seem to achieve, with courage from the front lines that will hopefully fill the ballot boxes in 2018 and 2020.

If these kids are the future, the future is ok.

 Photo credit James Petermeier. Photo credit James Petermeier.

Road Trip to Brussels

It’s the crocus vacation. The schools are on February break this week in our neck of the Netherlands, so we piled into the car for a family road trip to Brussels. That’s about a two hour drive door to door, if you can avoid the traffic. We didn’t, but we got there in the end, and were warmly welcomed by old friends just outside of the city in Tervuren.

 Tervuren boasts the Hapsburg folly of an unfinished Versailles, an ancient original growth forest, and a frozen fountain animal jazz band sculpture. Tervuren boasts the Hapsburg folly of an unfinished Versailles, an ancient original growth forest, and a frozen fountain animal jazz band sculpture.

Brussels seemed quiet, but that’s probably because it’s pretty much a bureaucratic city and everyone had left for the weekend. Also it was freezing out, so we were some of the only tourists. It was actually a great time to visit if you can trade the crowds for the cold.

 We rode the tram from Tervuren through parts of the ancient forest to Brussels center. We rode the tram from Tervuren through parts of the ancient forest to Brussels center.

If you only have a few days, there are two main things to see in Brussels. One of them is Manneken Pis.

 Manneken Pis is pretty much what he sounds like. Sometimes the locals dress him up. We found him in a flash newspaper suit. Look closely, he is peeing. Manneken Pis is pretty much what he sounds like. Sometimes the locals dress him up. We found him in a flash newspaper suit. Look closely, he is peeing.

Even on such a cold day Manneken Pis was mobbed by an adoring crowd. The sculpture, which was once involved with a water fountain, dates to around 1619. It is attributed to Hieronymus Duquesnoy the Elder, and the one here is a duplicate of the original, which currently resides in the Museum of the City of Brussels. Manneken Pis may depict an infant Duke urinating upon enemy troops, or a boy who saved the city from a burning fuse by urinating upon it, or one of several boys who were lost, only to be found urinating.

There is an element of Belgian humor to Menneken Pis, but he is also something of a national hero.

 The other thing to see in Brussels is the Grand-Place, or the Main Square. The other thing to see in Brussels is the Grand-Place, or the Main Square.

The Grand-Place encloses the town hall, and The Museum of the City of Brussels. It is grand in the true sense of the word, with beautiful buildings decorated in gold trim. Standing there the opulence of a lost age is suddenly real. And so are the writers. Looking up we discovered two plaques claiming, one in French and one in Dutch, because that is the nature of multi-cultural Brussels, that Victor Hugo lived here. Right in this very house.

 The Dutch and the French agree: Victor Hugo lived at number 26. The Dutch and the French agree: Victor Hugo lived at number 26.

Things are old here. We stopped to try some beer in a place that probably pre-dates the Mayflower. It was great to warm up with some local brew. We found that each variety must be served in its own particular glass. Some are light, some are heavy, and all are refreshing.

 Ancient beer place. Hergé of TinTin fame used to hang out here, too. Ancient beer place. Hergé of TinTin fame used to hang out here, too.

The best part about visiting Brussels was seeing old friends. The photos in this blog are the work of one them, Rikke Dakin.

Mary Petiet is a reporter, writer and story teller. 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 reenvision the world.  Mary is currently dividing her time between Cape Cod and The Netherlands.

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

Can You Cut It?

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”  G.K. Chesterton

Called yellow gold, Dutch cheese ranks one of The Netherland’s largest exports, right up there with tulips, and not matter how you cut it, who wouldn’t appreciate a table laden with beautiful cheese and flowers?

 Still life with cheese, almonds, and pretzels by Clara Peeters, 1594-1657. Flowers optional. Still life with cheese, almonds, and pretzels by Clara Peeters, 1594-1657. Flowers optional.

De Gaulle’s ponderings over how to govern a country with 246 varieties of cheese make me wonder where he got the specific number. I can’t find one for Holland, although cheese is ubiquitous and each variety is attached to a specific location of production.  Cheese is a gift from the flat green fields of dairy cattle dotting the countryside. The Dutch landscape is cheese landscape, and has been perhaps since Roman times.

 Cows in a (Dutch) River by Aelbert Cuyp, c. 1650. Cows in a (Dutch) River by Aelbert Cuyp, c. 1650.

Gouda (pronounced by the Dutch with a hard throat clearing ‘G’) and Edam are two popular Dutch cheeses also available in the States. They appear in The Netherlands in great colored rounds, from which you can have a wedge cut to bring home. Leyden cheese, which I have not seen in the US, is a pleasant surprise with flavorful studs of savory cumin and caraway seed for a spicy flavor.

 Beautiful Dutch cheese rounds Beautiful Dutch cheese rounds

The first time I ate Dutch cheese, I was confronted with one of these.

 Dutch cheese slicer Dutch cheese slicer

You can’t eat cheese in Holland without one. We had one in a remote drawer of my American kitchen growing up, but I have little memory of actually using it. When confronted with a thick Dutch style wedge of cheese, the American will invariably cut it into smaller bite sized pieces and place it on crackers, usually in the evening with a glass of wine.

Of course the Dutch have evening cheese and crackers, but I was surprised to find them also eating cheese for breakfast. One morning as I forced the cheese slicer’s blade down into the cheese in an attempt to break off a chunk, a close relative recoiled in horror, demanding, “How could you not know how to cut the cheese?”

Tremendous wording. While the laughter subsided, I learned the proper approach.

 Trim the hard edges of the cheese rind so you can slice evenly across the end of the cheese. Trim the hard edges of the cheese rind so you can slice evenly across the end of the cheese.  Modern still life with Dutch open faced cheese sandwich. The Dutch also make great bread. Modern still life with Dutch open faced cheese sandwich. The Dutch also make great bread.

Cheese sandwiches are consumed for breakfast, lunch, and snack time across The Netherlands. Holland is fueled by cheese.

And coffee, but coffee is another story.

Mary Petiet is a reporter, writer and story teller. 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 reenvision the world.  Mary is currently dividing her time between Cape Cod and The Netherlands.

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