Thanksgiving in Amsterdam

Happy New Year everyone! I know this post is a few months late, and am super sorry about that. I’m going to try to be more diligent about posting events as they happen since Ken and I realized that we will be having a super busy 2013! So…to Thanksgiving…

As the story goes…Harry, my brother, made some passing comment to my mother that it might be fun if we all met in Amsterdam for Thanksgiving. Despite the comment being a semi-joke, my mom decided, “what the heck” and that was the beginning of Dutch Thanksgiving 2012.

It ended up being a nice solution. Harry wanted to revisit his stomping grounds from a previous semester abroad. My parents really enjoy the kitsch and lure of Amsterdam, and for Ken and myself and my Aunt and cousins, it was easy since they live in the Netherlands and it’s only a 1 1/2 hour flight from Hamburg.

We decided again to go with for an apartment, and ended up staying in this awesome top-level apartment in a leaning house over one of the canals in de 9 Straajtes. Of course, I got sick with a terrible head cold the day before Ken and I left Hamburg, so he and I were banished to the very very top floor which had terrible insulation and awesomely beautiful old wood-planked floors. The top floor bathroom only had pressure when no one else was using any water in the apartment, which meant a few yells to my mom to stop washing dishes! But other than those minor snafoos and the loud Israeli stag party in the apartment below us, I think everyone enjoyed the comforts of having the space of an apartment rather than 5 hotel rooms between all of us.

Thanksgiving itself was….terrible and hysterical. We decided to go to one of the outdoor markets in search of veg and meat for our meal. Other than my grandmother’s pumpkin soup and California fruit loaf, we had no pre-prepared foods and needed to get everything the day of. Of course we ended up spending more time walking around and checking out Amsterdam than we did looking for food, so by 2pm in the afternoon we realized there was no way we would be able to make a turkey…if we could even find one. Luckily, we found a butcher in the outdoor market with rotisserie grilled turkeys, perfect for the expat community who can’t fit normal sized turkeys in our European ovens. So we got two small turkeys (or chickens…I forget) and some dripping to make gravy. Apparently when my dad asked for the drippings, they looked at him sideways until someone finally understood what he meant and gave us “le jus.”

We made it back to the apartment, where Sofia and I tried to make a pie crust for our pumpkin pie from an apple cake box. It was a bit of a mess, but we had hopes that it would work. Then, Sofia laid down to take a nap, since she had arrived that day from NY and was incredibly jet-lagged, and I was trusted to make the pie. I proceeded to forget to put eggs in the mixture, but was so proud of getting the pies in the oven sans spillage that I didn’t noticed that it wasn’t setting until an hour later. We ended up having to scoop out the pie filling, add egg, and return to the half burnt, super sweet apple cake “crust.” So for those who ever make that future mistake – STOP. Do not throw out the pie filling, just remove gently, add eggs, and return to crusts.

On the turkey front, we went to rewarm the turkeys and realized that the oven wasn’t working, the meat wouldn’t fit, and that it was incredibly dry and rubbery. And “le jus” was just oil and fat! Ken attempted to try to make it more flavorful by added bread crumbs from a package of pre-made stuffing that my dad was aching to buy – that didn’t work. And the turkey/chicken was a bust. Luckily Ken whipped up some killer smashed potatoes so that we ended up eating twice baked pie and mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a lot of fun.

Other than preparing a catastrophic, but amazing, Thanksgiving meal, we spent a few days dodging the wind and rain to see parts of Amsterdam that we hadn’t seen yet. The city was preparing for Sinterklaas, who along with Zwarte Piet gives good children small toys and gifts in their shoes on December 5th. The bad children receive coal. We encountered a whole slew of different Zwarte Piets while in Amsterdam, a character which I thought to be both interesting and strange – I was totally fascinated and ended up bringing home children’s book about their voyage from Spain.

We also did some other Amsterdam musts: we ate in a brown cafe while having delicious Belgian beers; went to the flower market, where the fake flowers were as plentiful as the real!

We got to go see the “I amsterdam.” As you see from the photos, instead of taking a photo of his face, I decided to show the “behind the scenes” shot of my Dad in the “e”!

We went to the Rijks museum.

We visited the market and had fresh stroopwafels and beignets.

And even had a chance to visit to Rembrandt’s house…

We even found a little NY in Amsterdam. My dad was excited!

In all, it was great to be with family.




  1. Bev wrote:

    My favorite story was the pie making. Favorite photo the one of Ken and your Dad.
    I really, really enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Randi wrote:

    What a wonderful thanksgiving you had (despite the food)! So glad you could all be together–though we missed you! xxx