By Meredith Mani
Thanksgiving 2020 will be a chance for all of us to focus on the “thanks” part of the holiday and less on “giving” friends and family a lavish dinner. This year, we are allowed to celebrate with just family and maybe a friend or two. Paring down Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean doing without. In fact, with a bit of creativity and planning, this might be your most memorable Thanksgiving yet.
Setting the scene
Whether this is your first Thanksgiving in the Netherlands or your 25th, this year is unique and offers an opportunity to celebrate this holiday as intended — from the perspective of gratitude. Set the scene for this gratitude by creating a table that encourages everyone gathered to express their appreciation for the bounty they have received over the last year.
Flowers are a simple and beautiful way to set the tone. Luckily, Amsterdam has fantastic and inexpensive flowers everywhere. Russet and jewel-colored flowers and branches make beautiful arrangements this time of year. You can also go out into nature and gather some large colorful leaves to scatter on the table or line a hurricane lamp.
Member Sherrie Zwail, a decorator, offers several resources for finding themed décor. “I usually buy autumn leaves at the flower kiosk next to AKO,” Zwail says. She also suggests ordering online from Beekwilder, Pipoos and Seizensdecoratie.
Zwail, who has lived in the Netherlands for years, has some creative ideas for setting a grateful table. “I ask everyone to send me a message ahead of time of what they are grateful for. I print each out and randomly place the message under each plate. During the dinner each person reads the message under the plate out loud,” relates Sherrie. She also collects small rocks and puts one at each place setting along with brightly colored nail polish so each person can write what they are thankful for and take home the rock after dinner. Sherrie also suggests printing out random Thanksgiving facts and putting those at each place setting, as well, then having people read them out loud during dinner. It sure beats talking politics with family!
Cooking your own bird
Dutch ovens weren’t built to cook large turkeys, so over the years, members have devised several clever ways to get around the problem of too-small ovens. Some will split open a turkey so that it cooks flat. Others roast a chicken or individual Cornish Game hens instead of a big bird. Karen Savage suggests trying the turkey hack of buying only the breast from your local butcher or market. Cornish hens can be found in many places; even Hanos and Albert Hein have them. Wonderful Cornish hens can be found at the Paul de Wit stand at the Saturday market in Oud Zuid.
If you’d like to try roasting a turkey yourself, Chris Kip at the Albert Cuyp market is extremely popular for fresh turkeys. The sizes of turkeys here in the Netherlands are smaller than the massive Butterball turkeys we are used to seeing in the States. Martha Canning has years of Dutch turkey-buying experience and says, “Slagerij de Leeuw is the Gold Standard when it comes to Thanksgiving, but there is a price attached! AWCA member Cyndee Rose uses Chris Kip and makes the good point that, “More than ever, we should support local businesses; these market vendors are still there everyday, doing little business.”
In Amstelveen, Laura’s Poelier/Traiteur is one of the well-known places for sourcing your turkey. If you have children at the International School of Amsterdam (ISA), you will have had their Thanksgiving/American breakfast. Those turkeys are provided by Wagenaar Poelier Traiteur. Wagenaar Poelier is also famous for their chicken balls (they are addictive little things) and is located very close to the ISA.
For our members living outside the city, ‘t Gooi Area Rep Hélène Garofalo recommends De Larense Wildhandel. She swears this will be “the best turkey you’ve ever had!” Floor Poelier is also a good source for turkey, she adds.
Near Haarlem, Slagerij Rob in Zwanenburg has been the go-to turkey provider for years. Rob will order the turkey based on your size specifications, and he will even roast it for you in his large oven. He will stuff the turkey using his recipe or you can drop off your secret family recipe and he will use that. Pick-up needs to be arranged in advance. Taste of Home on Gedempte Oude Gracht in Haarlem has canned pumpkin and other imported American and English specialties!
Let someone else do the cooking...
Sometimes, it’s just easier and more efficient to have the entire meal delivered. Martha Canning continues her recommendation of Slagerij de Leeuw: “You can order a turkey from them [that is] free range from France, and it will be the best turkey you've ever eaten in your life — seriously. You can also have them cook the turkey for you, and choose between you delivering your homemade stuffing to them ahead of time to stuff the turkey, or letting them stuff it with their own stuffing. This is a great option for people with a small oven. They also offer side dishes, gravy, etc., so you can basically order your whole Thanksgiving meal from them. Be sure to order ahead of time, as last minute is not an option.”
There are also plenty of restaurants that would appreciate your business. Frank’s Smokehouse normally has a week of Thanksgiving-themed meals, culminating with a Sunday buffet. If coronavirus rules ease, Frank’s restaurant will be open for Thanksgiving. In the meantime, their deli is open and they are taking pre-orders for Thanksgiving delivery. They are still able to cook and deliver a complete Thanksgiving feast, offering turkeys in two sizes: 3 kilos (serving 4-6 people) and 5 kilos (serving up to 14 people). All the turkeys are imported from France and are organic, free range turkeys. They stuff them with a vegetable based, gluten-free stuffing or can leave the stuffing out. The turkeys are smoked, which creates a juicier, tender bird and will fill your home with a wonderful aroma. In addition to the turkey you will get gravy, a sweet potato dish, potato gratin, cranberries, and either NY cheesecake or pecan pie. They deliver all over the Netherlands so, no matter where you are, you can still gobble up this deal. Frank’s is also offering AWCA members a 10 percent discount on all purchases for the remainder of the year, including Thanksgiving. Just use the code AWCA2020 at checkout.
Pendergast is a smokehouse barbeque restaurant in Amsterdam — “inspired by the culture of Prohibition-era Kansas City” — that is owned by an American. He offers smoked turkey and pecan pie all season long. Contact them to order if you’d like to try Thanksgiving from Pendergast. It might be fun to do something other than turkey since it’s been an unconventional year anyway. Maybe a Thanksgiving brisket will right the world again.
...or do it yourself after all
Love to cook and can’t imagine not providing the full spread yourself? We have your resources! Kelly’s Expat has a store here in Amsterdam and another in Wassenaar. But let your fingers do the shopping by ordering online and have holiday fixings sent to you. It’s best to order as early as possible if you’d like to snag canned pumpkin or Stove Top stuffing. Tjin’s in de Pijp also has Thanksgiving staples like marshmallows and pie filling. Eichholtz Delicatessen on the Leidsestraat sells products for Thanksgiving and all major holidays. Lindenhoff is a gourmet food delivery service and market that offers many items for your holiday table. Why not mix your American traditions with local Dutch products? Lindenhoff sells fresh cranberries from Terschelling.
And don’t forget the drinks!
What would Thanksgiving be without good wine and spirits? Fortunately for us, we have two members who are experts in this area. Julee Resendez is a Master Sommelier who will find wines that pair perfectly with your meal and deliver your order to your doorstep. “Wines, you can get through me. Rieslings, Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabs are great with turkey. We can even do American wines, and support wineries that need our support due to fires and Covid…everyone is hurting there,” says Julee. She added, “This month's box is female winemakers... so [it’s] quite a fun box.” You can contact Julee through her website www.vanbelleacademy or by messaging her on our Facebook site.
It’s been a tough year, so maybe you’d like something a bit stronger than wine. Member Bianca Kahlenburg has a line of all natural, no-added-sugar, gluten-free, infused vodkas. Her company, Starship Spirits, is offering AWCA members a special Thanksgiving Cocktail kit with all the ingredients to make your very own Pumpkin Spiced Mules at home. The kit, including a 70cl bottle of Starship Spirits Ginger Lime vodka and recipe card, can be delivered for €60 by emailing Bianca at email@example.com.
Whether your table has a Cornish Game hen for one on it or a turkey for as many people as the law will allow, this year it is vital that we all count our blessings and be thankful for what we have. Be thankful you have the opportunity to live abroad, that you have your health, that you live in a world with technology that allows you to FaceTime and Zoom with loved ones far away, and that we are all in this together. Some of us have dealt with loss this year or are experiencing professional uncertainty because of Covid. Not every day is easy, and it can be hard to find gratitude when you feel things are out of control. Know that we at the AWCA are grateful to have you in our sisterhood. We are here to raise a glass in friendship or to lend an ear in hardship. Together, even during difficult times, we are here for each other and support each other. In the words of Mother Teresa, “None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”