January 30, 2009

Tradition (6 in a series)

I have been encouraged to continue to write about “Celebrating Traditions.”
Now there are a lot of traditions in our lives, yet not all of them are celebrated per sé; some may even be barely tolerable. Yet we treasure them, particularly when they bring the comfort of the familiar, when they sustain our heritage, or when they poignantly bring specific events to recall.

I guess a very
non-threatening tradition we have is the one of “stampot” This is also spelled (correctly) “stamppot.” This is a conjunction of “stamp” and “pot.” This term is descriptive of a Dutch dish, which is usually served in the cooler months of the year. In the United States there are many casserole dishes, which are prepared as a mix of foods which are blended in cooking in an oven. I believe that stampot is a variant on this, albeit without the use of an oven.

Most of these dishes are simple to make with available supplies in the winter time. Potatoes keep well in a cellar, kale tastes better after a frost, cut beans are preserved with salt, carrots, turnips, or beets keep well in the cellar also. Apples and wax beans can be dried or canned. Various cabbages can obviously be used as well. There is a Wikipedia site for your perusal as well: (click here)

The reference to “hutspot” is interesting, and dates the use of stampot back to at least the 16th century.

Even today we still enjoy the heartiness of this meal, which is usually cooked with the meat on top. The meat is left on top so it can be removed before the mashing of the boiled potato and vegetable mix, this allows the meat juices to permeate the mashed pot of food adding to the flavor. A variety of meats can be used, but primarily a slab of bacon, or some form of sausage is used.

January 17, 2009

Celebrating Traditions (5)

Canals in the Netherlands no longer freeze every winter, so the chance to ice skate outdoors created a frenzy in Kinderdijk and elsewhere in the south. (Michael Kooren/Reuters)

For the first time in 12 years, the Netherlands' canals froze this month. Which brought the Dutch out onto the ice in a heady mix of pandemonium and euphoria. Thousands of skaters, their cheeks as red as apples in the freezing temperatures, took to the ice, and hospital wards were filled with dozens of people with broken arms and legs as well as sprained ankles. In the 19th century, during the days of Hans Brinker, the hero of the novel in which he tries to win a pair of silver skates, the canals froze almost every year. But water pollution and climate change have made this rare today. With an influx of immigrants, the country has been struggling to maintain what it considers its Dutch soul, one of many here who thought the skating experience enabled the Dutch to reconnect with their identity. Water is our friend, a lot of our area is water.

Above: My skates...

Right "it is just not the same on a skating Rink"

From days of old, people could skate to each other in different villages. Others spent a lot of time just skating meditatively alone, leaning slightly forward, arms crossed on the back. A 6-year-old was on the ice pushing a chair to avoid falling, the traditional Dutch way for a child to learn to skate. Later, the rain and clouds of the usual Dutch winter came back.
Weather experts said that the cold snap that brought the ice earlier in the month had been caused by cold air that came rolling in from the east, across Germany and into the Netherlands. Oddly, though, the cold swept across only the southern Netherlands and not the north. This mattered because this year is the 100th anniversary of the first race across frozen canals through 11 cities in Friesland, the “Elf-Steden Tocht; and this race has been held every year in the past century when there has been adequate ice.
(Freely borrowed from the “International Herald Tribune” edited by me.)

January 3, 2009

Celebrating Traditions 4

It is the third day of 2009.
Our grandchildren woke us up on new years day: “
Wake up, wake up, and enjoy the first day of the new year.” We have a tradition with them: the may come in at seven thirty, or later, to wake us and crawl under the covers with us for a while. I can tell you that it never is “later...”

As I eluded to in my previous blog, we celebrate family gift giving and “stockings” during the time we spend together at the new years’ celebration. This is a tradition we started as a very young family during our first year in Ettlingen, Germany.
Because back in the sixties it was still customary in most of Western Europe to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ during the time of the winter solstice, Christmas was celebrated as a high-holiday, at least two days. First Christmas day was like any Sunday, a day of rest, attending church and having family quiet time. Second Christmas day was more for celebrating with family and acquaintances. Still we focused on the birth of the Savior. In contrast, especially in Germany, it was a grand celebration to let go of the old year and to bring in the new year with a bang, – literally.

We kept this European tradition to celebrate the passing of the old to the new year by gathering family and friends in out home to reflect, play games, and snack on many of the goodies prepared for this celebration. In the Netherlands where we grew up, we always had olie-bollen on new year’s eve (oude jaars dag). We still do, at our house, on new year’s eve. Our children now participate in the annual family tradition of baking this delicacy, which used to be know as “the Dad duty.”

As is our custom, we have a toast at the hour of midnight, after which we pray to our God for a blessing over the coming year. Then it is hugs all around! We dispense with the “bang.” The neighbors, as well as local law enforcement officers, would frown on the use of fireworks primary the very loud explosive kind...