August 24, 2014 · 21:01
In one of my old posts I called autumn my favourite season, and October my favourite autumn month. But I don’t recall asking for August to become October, and this August has been very much October-like in my corner of Europe. I’m sure this has its bright sides somewhere, but they are damned hard to see behind the clouds. One slightly less dark side I could find is that pumpkin soup goes really well with this weather.
- 1 Red kuri squash pumpkin (this variety you can eat with skin and all)
- 2 small potatoes (or sweet potatoes if you want everything orange)
- 2 carrots
- 1 large onion
- Juice of 1 orange
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 2 tsp vegetable bouillon
Cut the pumpkin in half and spoon out the seeds. Make sure you take all of them out, because I’ve missed a couple of seeds once and had to spit them out piece by piece afterwards (there’s a blender involved later in the recipe). Chop the onion and the carrots and fry them in some oil in a large soup pan. Chop the pumpkin and add it to the pan. Pour 1 litre of boiling water (or more, at least enough to cover the vegetables). Add the skinned and cubed potatoes, the vegetable bouillon and the thyme. Cook until the pumpkin in soft. Add the orange juice and using a hand blender, mix the soup into a smooth mass. Be very careful here – the soup has a very high heat content and flying drops can be dangerous (my wife still has marks on her arm from a soup accident years ago). If you want to make the soup look fancy, decorate the bowls with a spoon of crème fraîche or yoghurt, and a parsley leaf.
Go easy on the potatoes, otherwise you’ll end up eating very orange potato puree, like I did the last time.
July 27, 2014 · 10:35
My post titled “7 things I don’t understand about Americans in Europe” keeps drawing new comments, and not all of them are friendly. But I welcome them all, since the goal of the post was, in fact, to learn more about Americans in Europe and why they behave the way they do. Thanks to all those people (mostly Americans) who took the trouble to comment, I have indeed learned a few new things.
- Why don’t they drink tap water?
Still unexplained. Possible answers were “Maybe it’s because we’re next to Mexico”, blaming low quality of tap water in some parts of Europe (and extrapolation to other parts), and more generalizing “American paranoia” (the last one is from an American, I merely quote here).
- Why do they think Europe has a “low season”?
I was duly pointed to the fact that “Certain parts of Europe do in fact have low seasons, they just tend to be tourist magnets.” So yes, some sea-side resorts have low seasons, but the weather then is rather bad, and most businesses are closed, so in fact, they have no season at all then. If you’re going to Ibiza or Dubrovnik in the “low season” be prepared to visit a ghost town.
- Why do they use money belts? and
- Why don’t they use ATM’s?
Commentators combined answers to these two questions, so I guess they are related. I can live with the explanation that (some) Americans are not used to the crowds – “In America, we usually drive in cars and don’t walk much or use public transport.” Another commenter says that “pickpocketing certainly exists across the globe but is pronounced in Europe due to social problems.” I tend to disagree with this broad statement – social problems anywhere in Europe are nothing compared to India or Latin America. Perhaps, indeed, as another commenter suggests, “Money belts are a combination of paranoia and ignorance.”
As far as ATM’s are concerned, apparently, “For Americans, ATMs often have very high fees for foreign transactions.” On the other hand, it does not apply for all Americans, as these comments clearly show: “Money belts are stupid. My wife and I use ATMs.” “I have never owned a money belt! They’re totally useless. I find that you’re better off with a little bit of street smarts and an ATM card with no international fees.”
- Why are they in such a rush?
The most common explanation is the one I originally came up with myself – limited vacation days. But, as I’ve written in another post, the shocking truth is that Americans don’t even use the little leave they have! Why they insist on choosing quantity instead of quality? One commenter explains it as follows: “I could sit around in cafés or parks lounging and relaxing but how is that any better than moving at a fast pace to see as many sights and museums as possible?” Personally, I think a good vacation is exactly the opposite of “moving at a fast pace”, and is actually intended for relaxing. But William D. Chalmers has made a career out of writing about it, so I’ll refer all further questions to him.
- Why don’t they have a clue?
Still a bit vague here, even though my question seems justified. Apparently, “most Americans think of Europe as Disneyland”. This is perhaps explained by “They don’t have a clue because they are never taught to be curious about what the rest of the world is like”, although it seems a broad generalization. But, as one commenter rightfully pointed out, “99% of them won’t even come over to Europe for not having enough time so, support the ones that do!” I couldn’t agree more.
- What’s up with Paris?
As one commenter puts it, “there’s an unhealthy obsession in American culture with Paris as the capital of romance and beauty. Personally, I think it is neither.” On the other hand, another commenter says “I don’t know if I can explain Paris if you haven’t been there. I don’t think I would want to live in Paris, but as a tourist, I love Paris. ” According to others, “Paris is dirty, overhyped, and overrun with tourists”, “Paris is incredible but it’s also a dirty, angry city with tons of social problems.” So there’s definitely something about Paris, I just didn’t have the chance to check it out for myself yet.
It does appear that my post has hit a nerve, even though for some it was the wrong nerve – if you want to know more, check out the comments of the original post here. I still don’t understand (some) Americans, but thanks to the feedback, I understand them a little bit better. More comments are warmly welcomed!
June 21, 2014 · 22:37
While I was working on the list of 21 signs you have been too long in the Netherlands, I noticed that a few of the things I came up with were, in fact, not generally applicable to the Netherlands, but were specific to Rotterdam.
- You think it was worth it to stand for two hours in line at Richard Visser’s on December 31st to get the best oliebollen in the country.
- You remember the last time Feyenoord actually won something.
- You follow the performances of Sparta and Excelsior in the second league.
- You refer to the capital of the Netherlands as 020.
- You know the bridges in Rotterdam by their nicknames.
- When you cross the Maas to the other side from the one you live on, you get homesick.
- Which is why you actually avoid the other side.
- Skyscrapers built in a couple of weeks no longer surprise you.
- Bram Ladage fries are a healthy snack.
- You have a favourite modern architecture icon in Rotterdam (mine is the Bergpolderflat).