Christmas

Merry Christmas!

I had intended this post to talk about the differences between Dutch and English Christmases and ultimately decide which is the best (English, obviously… purely for the silly Christmas jumpers, crackers and hats) but I’m ill.

So instead – you get this half-arsed drawing! (Yes, that is supposed to be a bitterbal wearing a Santa hat on the right!) Merry Christmas!

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Or if you’re Dutch:
Vrolijk Kerstfeest, Vrolijk Kerstmis, Prettige Kerstdagen, Prettige Feestdagen, Prettige Kerst, Prettig Kerstmis, Fijne Dagen, Fijne Feestdagen, Fijne Kerst, Fijne Kerstdagen, Gelukkig Kerstmis… Did I miss any!?! 😉

Hayley x

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Being Dutch – Part 2: Gourmetten

At Christmas time in the Netherlands gourmetten is a popular and traditional way to eat. It involves putting a hot plate / grill in the middle of the table and then cooking mini pieces of meat, seafood and vegetables yourself. There are many styles of gourmet sets from a standard flat-bed hot plate (below) to full-on Raclette party grills which have individual pans for each person to grill things on the underside –  in addition to the shared plate at the top.

Gourmetten

Gourmetten

Popular ingredients to “gourmet” are:

Rundvlees / biefstuk – Beef (steak)
Kip – Chicken
Hamburgers – they must be mini ones!
Speklapjes – bacon, normally wrapped around a wooden stick
Worstjes – mini sausages
Zalmfilet – Salmon fillet
Garnalen – King prawns
Plus groenten (vegetables – stir fried types are normally used) and brood (bread) with knofloofkboter (garlic butter – mmmmm!)

Playing with fire!

Playing with fire!

Often, dessert is also cooked on the bakplaat (hot plate) …after it’s been cleaned, of course. The dish of choice is normally pannenkoekjes (pancakes) which are served with a variety of fillings / flavours including ice-cream, fruit, advocaat (traditional Dutch alcoholic beverage made from eggs, sugar and brandy) etc. Booze is optional and a slightly terrifying experience, as you can see!! 😉

My Dutch family enjoy to dine this way A LOT, not just at Christmas. It’s very sociable, fun and everyone can eat what they want… and cook it the way they like it. Supermarkets such as Albert Heijn even sell special pre-packed gourmetten sets with a selection of mini meat cuts. Of course you do get charged a bit extra for the privilege… but the convenience is worth those few extra euros in my opinion!

So, that’s gourmetten – or as the Dutch would say “gezellig tafelen voor iedereen” (cozy dining for everyone!)

Hayley x

Being Dutch – Part 1: Top 2000

As part of my integration into the culture, I try and do as many “Dutch” things as possible. In the past this has included, but is not limited to: eating raw haring (herring), dressing head to toe in orange for Koninginnedag (Queen’s day now King’s Day!), cooking mini meat products on a bakplaat (hot plate for cooking things ON the table! Weird! Also known as gourmettensee photo below), kissing strangers on the cheek 3 times, attending Dutch circle parties and enjoying a canal boat ride or twenty.

However, Top 2000 is without a doubt one of  my favourite things about the Netherlands. Each year, one of the biggest radio stations, Radio 2, opens its website for stemmen (voting) for just one week and you have to choose your top 15 all-time songs from their list… plus 5 songs of your own choice. (Voting closes this Friday, 6th December, so if you’re quick you can still vote now.)

Then on 25th December at midday they begin the Top 2000. Yes, the station literally plays 2000 songs, as chosen by the public… non-stop all the way until midnight on 31st December!!! Since it started running in 1999, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen has been number 1 twelve times, beaten only by Hotel California by the Eagles in 2010 and by Dutch legend, Boudewijn de Groot with Avond in 2005.

What better driving music is there?

What better driving music is there?

The Dutchie and I are HUGE music fans, so it’s a very exciting time for us! From the excitement of voting, to actually hearing the first song on Christmas Day to find out which songs only *just* made the cut! There’s always a huge pull-out sheet in the newspaper to tell you what date and time the songs are on and quite often over the past 5 years we have left the radio on at night or set and alarm just to listen to one of our favourite songs. Yes – we can listen to that song any time, but this is different, this is the Top 2000!

Of course there are always people moaning because their favourite song/band is missing from the list, but I try to look on the positive side and just make the best out of what IS there. We would never have anything like this in the UK, so I have to make the most of it! Last year a Facebook group was formed to get SLAYER in the Top 2000 (much like the campaign to make Rage Against the Machine number one in the UK) anyway, it worked and SLAYER Angel of Death was number 199 in 2012! We stayed up until 5.30am at a party to celebrate and listen to it being played among ABBA and Sting! Very surreal!

Slayer and a grillplaats (Gril/hot plate) all in one!

Slayer and a bakplaat all in one!

Following 6 days solid of pure music pleasure… the magic really kicks in on New Years Eve when you get to the pointy end of the chart and into the Top 100 or so. Some personal highlights from last year were:

Alice Cooper – Halo Of Flies (number 167)
Neil Young – Like A Hurricane (no. 146)
Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights (no. 144)
Radiohead – Creep (no. 116)
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (no. 97)
The Cure – A Forest (no. 42)
Billy Joel – Piano Man (no. 36)

… you get the idea, it’s TUNE after tune! (Unfortunately “our song”: Roxy Music – If There Is Something only ends up being around the 1000 mark every year… such a shame. Amazing song, it really takes you on a journey. Totally underrated!)

Anyway, the best is yet to come… New Years eve is of course fantastic wherever you are.

BUT…

If you are standing on a roof terrace in Amsterdam with your best friends in the world, listening to the Top 2000 whilst fireworks are going off all around the city and you have a 360° panoramic view… well, then it’s just EPIC!! I can safely say that belting out Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of my lungs, champagne in hand, in Holland’s capital was one of the best nights of my life, EVER. I think I even shed a little tear. So thanks, Top 2000, ik hou van jou.

Hayley x