Monday, May 21, 2007

A Sunday in Holland

We stayed up pretty late Saturday night after a movie. I think it is so European to start dinner at 9:30pm, start the movie at 10:30, create our own home intermission in the middle of the movie to grab cookies and sodas and then to finish the movie and stay up another 3 hours just talking about anything and everything. I am not saying our culture versus European culture is better or worse, but it is simply different. I feel I have been more relaxed in the last 3 days than I have been the last 3 years. I think that I have no responsibility is part of it, but also adapting to a lifestyle that focuses on living and doing and learning about each other rather than the embodiment of stress we call our careers. I love the career I have chosen for myself and all that comes with it, but this trip makes me realize that burn out is a real thing. I am not burnt out from cooking, food, or the work, but rather, that daily routine and racing the clock to balance personal fulfillment versus a successful career. My goal is to have both and my motivation rests every night right beside me. Nicole is so loving and supportive of it all and this has been such a great experience to have her with me during this time. I can truly say I am experiencing the best of both worlds right now.

Our dinner was a quick one and a light one. Something neccessary when your day is filled with hordes of relatives trying to stuff you with the entire Dutch cuisine in a matter of days. Saskia, made a beautiful salad of Wild Arugula, Fresh Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Fresh Basil picked straight from the garden and Cashews all drizzled with a fruity Spanish olive oil that comes from just south of Barcelona. This is a basic salad that most of us have had, but the addition of the wild arugula that was so crisp and peppery offset by the olive oil provided a flavorful change to the caprese salad we are so accustomed to. We finished the dinner with some of my Aunt Hedy's homemade pizzas from her bakery that we decided to reheat. Then Wim brought out the prize of a dessert. A very Dutch cookie (I am reluctant to let you know the name via this blog, but rather tell you in is not so P.C.) that would be a favorite amongst most kids, adults and cultures. It looked like a bon bon, but as you bite into it you are greeted with the pillow like texture of marshmallow and a cinnamon spiced cookie crust. This all covered in chocolate and in bite size other words, an accessible S'more.

Sunday was another late start for Nicole and I. We woke up at about noon and had a very light breakfast/lunch. Nicole had a flaky croissant with butter and jam while I enjoyed a Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich on a seeded Kaiser Roll. Both were lighter options than we've had the last few days and completely satisfying. Then, we all piled into the minivan, kids and all, and headed out to Amsterdam to visit the Rijks Museum. What a gorgeous day, the warm sun peeking out behind small white clouds while the spring breeze cools the tears of sweat forming on the top of my lip. We have been blessed with beautiful weather while here that even the locals are forced to comment on. That would all change a little later though.

We entered the museum and are greeted by one of the largest portraits I have ever seen. The painting must have been 30 feet wide by 10 feet high. It always amazes me the size and grandeur of older art and the efforts that must have been taken to achieve such tasks without today's technology. The painting was teaming with 15th century Dutch sailors that were so life like and realistic looking that Nicole and I found ourselves staring and contemplating if images were moving or not. We walked through the dimly lit museum halls and learned a lot about the Imperialistic former Dutch Kingdom. They were sailing to conquer the world and capitalize on all the existing trade. They would attack rival ships to steal their supplies, goods, and trade routes. The former Dutch Republic was cruel. This is the complete opposite of the current culture of The Netherlands. Now you see a calm and friendly public and a liberal government that reaches for things that are good for the people and the country. We finished our tour with Rembrandt's last commissioned painting "Nacht Wacht". This painting showed the realism and detail of life once again and was surrounded by the largest crowd of the day.

We walked through the museum square, an open air area divided by a tiny canal and fountain. The area was littered with various kiosks selling snacks, tables, chairs, and sunbrellas. We bought some belgian style waffles and waffle cones filled with soft serve ice cream. It was a nice treat on a warm day. We basked in the moment letting time pass us by while people watching and enjoying more conversation. Then it came, drop after drop of rain began, so we gathered the kids and scurried to the car to drive back home.

Once home, we relaxed a bit, Nicole did some work on the computer and Saskia and I prepared for our Gourmetten dinner. This is a family tradition in Holland and something we always do when I visit. It is similar to fondue or shabu shabu in theme where all the meats and vegetables are cut small and all the cooking is done at the table. We had chicken breast and flank steak marinated in olive oil, garlic and nutmeg. Mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, and potatoes crammed the table along with a garlic aioli, sambal aioli and fresh baguettes. Again we had the arugula "caprese" as our salad. This style of eating is so enjoyable because of the communal feeling it creates. Everyone at the table shares, cooks for each other in their mini saute pans, and then you add your own personality to your dish by adding herbs and spices like basil or curry powder. Honestly, I didn't think it would be enough, but after I poured all the beef juices left in the little pan onto my baguette true decadence was achieved. The South African Cabernet Sauvignon lit up just the right amount of pleasure centers to make digestion on the couch a mellow one.

It seems like the routine these days in Holland, so we opted for another thriller style movie followed by conversation into the early morning hours. After discussing the controversial documentary "Loose Change", we decided to rest our minds, spirits and stomachs at cousin keeps telling me this is what vacation is all about.....I think I'm learning.....


Anonymous said...

I love the that you are taking me along on your trip, the food is killing me, bring me a doggie bag home please..


Anonymous said...

We are in Holland living your trip vicariously as you eat your way through the scrumptious dishes you write about. The only thing better would be to be sitting in one of your future restaurants eating our way through your personal menu. We will patiently await the day as this dream unfolds.

Our love always,
Uncle George

Anonymous said...

Hey Jacquet...bring me one of those "non PC" named cookies!!! I need to make those!

Sounds like you two are having a blast. Have fun.


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