12 More Things…

… that I love about family Christmas in Amsterdam.

Except unlike two years ago this time my 12 things are all food-related. We all know that gluttony is the true meaning of Christmas.

  1. Warm crusty apple cake and Chocomelk from Café Winkel 43, eaten huddled outside six-to-a-bench with a 1:1 ratio of heavy whipped cream.
  2. A table creaking with cheeses lugged from York, from the lauded Comté to the maligned smoked goat. The apple of everyone’s eye is the cake of stilton, which we scrape onto Bath Ovals, smear across bread layered with crystallized salted butter, and melt into turkey stock for soup so rich it is served it only by the teacup.
  3. Christmas morning smoked salmon posted all the way from Scotland, with steaming peppery scrambled eggs, toasted loaves and a glass of bitty Bucksfizz.
  4. Brussel sprouts with outer leaves haphazardly peeled by the younger generation, with many sacrificed beneath kitchen cabinets in Brussel Sprout Basketball. Made palatable to the vegetable-averse by a favourable ratio of fried pancetta and flaked glazed chestnuts.
  5. My mother’s incomparable bread sauce. Dripped over turkey, mashed into crispy potatoes and furtively consumed by the teaspoon straight from the jug.
  6. Flaming brandy-soaked Christmas pud, moist and flavoursome and, best of all, microwavable.
  7. Spoonfuls of wibbly wobbly pink jelly with double cream and much debate over structural integrity. (Does it stay in the dish when you turn it upside down? How is the wobble to firmness ratio? Did you eat too many jelly pieces at the watering stage?)
  8. Tiny(ish) tumblers of Irish Bailies tinkling with arrow-shaped ice cubes and accompanied by thick peppermint creams and hard-won segments of Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
  9. Home-made pork pie with a thick, asymmetrical crust and ornamental pastry pig, filled with fistfuls of herbs and a generous amounts of jelly.
  10. A deep bowl of trifle with creamy custard from the Dutch dairy shop and a welcome upper crunch of crushed almonds – as well as a less welcome one at the bottom born from our impatience to wait long enough for the sponge lady fingers to soften in madeira. Gone within five ladlefuls.
  11. A Boxing Day dish of baked red peppers, swimming in oil and stuffed with a garlic clove each.
  12. Fruity Christmas cake cloaked in the softest whitest marzipan icing of any year yet.

12 Things…

… that I love about family Christmas in Amsterdam.

  1. My mum’s bread sauce. Culinary event of the year. (In fact all of these could be food-related, because we all know that gluttony is the true meaning of Christmas.)
  2. Feeling hip and young and one of the kids through internet in-jokes with my teenage cousin.
  3. The Dutch style of leaving their living room curtains open to the world at large, creating evening streets lined with cosy glimpses of family life and beautiful interior design.
  4. Dutch style generally; women in enormous scarves cycling over bridges and bald men in round glasses walking dogs.
  5. Terrible dancing in the kitchen to everything from Abba to BB King.
  6. Aggressive and competitive word games with my aggressive and competitive family.
  7. Aggressive and competitive participation in celebrity University Challenge with my aggressive and competitive family.
  8. My mum and her sisters collapsing into unanimous incomprehensible hysteria – this year over a particularly un-PC mime of Angela Merkel during Round 3 of the hat game.
  9. Everyone rallying forces to demolish three bottles of Baileys in three days.
  10. Schokomelk with extra whipped cream and a view over the canal.
  11. Chaotic group Skype sessions to cousins 11 hours and two seasons away.
  12. A million festive tea light holders and a million dancing shadows.