Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Shiny, Sparkly and Meaty

Happy New Year one and all!

As an American that lives abroad, I am not one for embracing Dutch traditions on a regular basis.  I do the ones which there is no way out of, like Queen's Day or Sinterklaas but for the rest, I'm mostly not a partaker.  Part of that is due to my resistance in joining anything, but also part is because they are not my customs, and since I happened to marry a man who is even less than a joiner than I am, we opt out of most hardcore Dutch traditions.

Except one.

Eating gourmet on New Year's.

Well, actually we don't follow the tradition exactly because most Dutchies eat gourmet on New Year's Eve but we eat it on New Year's Day, because it is great hangover food, and we always sleep late on New Year's Day, eating breakfast around 2, so eating gourmet is a great way to have a great meal without a lot of work.  But, first, the burning question.

What the hell is gourmet?

Gourmet is a table top grill that you use to cook food tableside.  It's origins are Swiss and Swiss tradition is that you eat raclette by eating boiled potatoes and cover them all kinds of goopy, wonderful melted cheese, and eat them with sweet pickles and dried meats. This is called raclette.  But, the Dutch use their own twist and use their raclette mostly as a kind of tableside barbeque and call it gourmet (pronouncing the 't').  Don't ask me how we got from boiled potatoes to meat, I don't know.

The closest we come in America to this is meat fondue, but instead of cooking the meat in oil, they cook it on this little grill.   The grill has both a grill on top (ours also has a grill stone) and underneath you have these little pans which are great for broiling.

Our Raclette

In the days between Christmas and New Year's, all Dutch grocery stores and butcher shops offer their version of gourmet schotels (gourmet trays) which offer various types of meat in small portions.  The Dutch, loving conformity as they do, buy everything ready to cook and do very little themselves.  From one Dutch house to another, you see the same gourmet trays, served with the same pre sliced bagutte and pre-made garlic butter and with the same jarred sauces to dip their cooked meat in.  I've eaten gourmet at least 3 times at Dutch houses, and each meal was like a carbon copy of the one before.

So, while I embrace the tradition, I do try to put my own signature on it and make it just a bit different by creating my own meat dishes and marinades, or making vegetable dishes and I never serve garlic bread.    Most years I marinade fish, meats and chicken and create all kinds of dips, batters and marinades for them, I usually even beat up a couple of eggs for those who might fancy a  mini omlette, I slice up everything from mushrooms and peppers, zucchini, eggplant, fresh garlic, spring onions.  This year, because I have been home for the last 10 days, I've done a ton of cooking over the past week and I didn't feel like chopping up meat and fish and putting my food processor in overdrive to make pestos, mint marinades and batters, so we decided  to just break down and buy a tray.  I did throw in some mushrooms, roasted potatoes and roasted red peppers but more than any other year, I did the textbook tray and store bought sauces.  Woo-hoo, I'm Dutch, I put together a cookie-cutter dinner!

Cookie cutter or not, the fun of the whole evening is to just sit around, knock back some wine or beer and have fun cooking your own dinner.  That was not lost on us.  Maya cracked us up during the whole dinner, joking around with us and then periodically grabbing Leo's and my arms and saying how much she loves having a family dinner.

Then, suddenly, she got up and asked us to turn the television on and I was afraid she was going to run off, she dragged her little rocking chair in front of the tv, piled all her stuffed animals selectively on it so they could all see the tv, she ran back to the table and told me, well, I didn't want to make them feel bad because they were not invited to our family dinner.

Whether it is stuffed animals, other kids or her trains, my girl is a nurturer to her core.  I love that about her and am so grateful that her heart is open.  What more can you really ask for?

Look at those fine motor skills!
So, now that our bellies are stuffed to the gills and we never want to look at meat again, let me take this opportunity to wish all of you a wonderful new year, full of shiny, sparkly things, whether you basque in the traditions of auld lang syne or you create your own traditions or do something in between.

May you be healthy, and may you be able to recognize the beauty and wonder in your life.  May you shine as bright and beautifully as our Maya.


  1. I must admit I have never seen anything like your table top grill, although the food sounds very delicious. Happy New Year. :)

  2. Happy New Year to you too! Thanks for reading!

  3. Loving this post. We sure are strange people us Dutchies... Lol. See you in a bit. Kiss, Sandra.